The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has approved the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine for mass distribution across the country.

SAHPRA’s Yuven Gounden confirmed the approval to The Citizen on Thursday afternoon, as South Africa is expected to receive the first batch of an order of 30 million of the single-dose J&J vaccines manufactured locally by pharmaceutical giant Aspen in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape.

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The Aspen facility secured a manufacturing deal with J&J which the company signed off on Sunday. Production and packaging of the vaccines have already started and expected to be delivered later in April.

The J&J vaccine is said to be 85% effective in preventing severe illness from Covid-19. The vaccine also reduces symptomatic Covid-19 disease by 67%.

According to SAHPRA, individuals over the age of 18 are able to receive the J&J vaccine jab.

Last month, SAHPRA also approved a Section 21 application for the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

Some 20 million Pfizer vaccines doses are expected to be delivered from the second quarter of the year while 12 million vaccine doses will come from the Covax facility.

While there have been delays in securing Covid-19 vaccines for South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa said during his address to the nation on Tuesday evening the government was confident it would achieve its vaccination targets.

“The demand for vaccines around the world has become extremely competitive but we are doing our best to secure enough supply for the people of South Africa and the African continent. We have had to adapt to the changing nature of the virus and to emerging evidence about the effectiveness of different vaccines,” Ramaphosa said.

“We will ensure that we have sufficient doses of effective vaccines to reach population immunity in the shortest possible time.”

READ MORE: SA’s newly detected Covid-19 variants aren’t major cause for concern

So far more than 260,000 healthcare workers have been inoculated with the J&J vaccine since the arrival of the first batches of doses in February.

At least 72,666 people a day are targeted to be vaccinated between 17 May and 31 July to total the projected 5,449,980 vaccine jabs given to those over 60 during the first part of the second phase, technical adviser to the health department Dr Aquina Thulare told the health portfolio committee this week.

Additional reporting from Rorisang Kgosana

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