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South Africa expands COVID vaccinations to cover older people

Evanna Tehuis old age home manager Theresa Swart (C) briefs elderly guests of the retirement home during a vaccination run near Klerksdorp, on May 19, 2021   -  
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South Africa

Residents at Evanna Tehuis retirement home in Hartebeesfontein, northwest South Africa got their Covid-19 jabs on site, with a mixture of relief and trepidation. 

On Wednesday, South Africa expanded its vaccination campaign to cover the elderly after initially inoculating Heathworkers and teachers.

"I think each person must be given the opportunity to protect themselves. And the fact that the government is bringing us these vaccines makes it a lot easier. You have to be positive about this kind of thing... I’ll come back in 21 days for my second dose," said Tersa van der Merwe, a resident of Evanna nursing after getting the injection.

The country has said it intends to inoculate nearly 5 million citizens aged 60 and above by the end of June.

One of those vaccinated under the expanded campaign is the anti-apartheid icon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

The 89-year-old was rolled in a wheelchair into a vaccination center in Cape Town where he and his wife, Leah, were given the shots.

Race to reopen the economy 

The health department said it plans to give shots to more than 7,700 senior citizens at 102 nursing homes by the end of the week, and 50,000 by the end of May.

"We are so excited to get the vaccination because we’ve had two Covid outbreaks at the facility in the last year. And it is just wonderful that we know we can protect ourselves and protect each other and not end up in ICU," said Theresa Swart, the manager of Evanna nursing home.

South Africa is the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Africa, and the government has been widely criticized for the sluggish pace of its vaccination campaign.

Authorities are keen to ramp up inoculations in a bid to reopen the economy which slid into recession last year and shed millions of jobs. 

South Africa has posted more than 1.6 million confirmed infections and more than 55,000 deaths.

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