- Covid-hit Leribe district the first to benefit from Johnson & Johnson vaccines
THE Ministry of Health has begun the third phase of the mass vaccination programme to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first phase kicked off in March this year in Maseru with essential workers such as healthcare employees and media practitioners being jabbed with 36 000 AstraZeneca vaccines that were donated by various development partners through the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The ministry also vaccinated the elderly and those with life-threatening conditions like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
During the months of June and July, these groups received their second and final doses after another 36 000 AstraZeneca vaccines were donated by France for the second phase of the vaccination programme.
The third phase will get underway tomorrow in Leribe, the district hardest hit by infections according to the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC).
Addressing the media over the weekend, Health Minister Semano Sekatle said people will be vaccinated with Johnson&Johnson doses during the third phase.
The 302 400 Johnson&Johnson vaccines were recently donated by the United States (US) government.
One advantage of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine is that unlike AstraZeneca, only one jab is required. Mr Sekatle said they would be targeting the elderly and people with terminal illnesses who could not be vaccinated during the first roll out due to limited supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccines.
Members of the security agencies, teachers, students in tertiary institutions and workers (including factory workers, mine workers, bank staffers, civil servants) as well as the general public will also be vaccinated, Mr Sekatle said.
The minister hailed the US donation, saying it came at an opportune time when infection rates had spiked in the country. As of yesterday, Lesotho had recorded a cumulative 12 908 infections and 374 deaths.
“Now that we have received vaccines, I appeal to the public to visit health facilities to get their jabs,” Mr Sekatle said.
“But you should also remember that the vaccines will not stop you from getting infected. They only boost your immune systems and help prevent Covid-19 related deaths.
“The best defence against this deadly virus is to adhere to the health protocols such as wearing of masks properly, frequently washing hands and maintaining physical distancing in public spaces.”
Mr Sekatle said Lesotho was expecting another 108 000 Johnson&Johnson vaccines from the African Union (AU) next week.
“In the same week, we are also expecting 260 000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine. This will be administered to 130 000 people in two phases just like the AstraZeneca vaccines,” he said.
Lesotho is now officially in the third wave of Covid-19, with Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro revealing that the country is battling three highly contagious variants of the virus.
These are the South African variant, Delta variant and the United Kingdom mutation of the Lambda variant first identified in Peru last August.
Of these, the Delta variant is the most virulent with reports saying it is responsible for 83 percent of Covid-19 cases in the US.
The US is the world leader in Covid-19 cases with 35 688 506 infections and 629 064 deaths having been recorded by yesterday.
India, the country where the Delta variant was first identified, is a close second with 31 613 993 infections and 423 842 deaths by yesterday.
Dr Majoro said the country’s positivity rate had shot up and more than 300 positive infections were now being recorded per week.
NACOSEC said Leribe was the hardest hit hence the government’s decision to roll out the third phase of the mass vaccination campaign in that district.
Thereafter, the vaccination programme will be expanded to Maseru, Berea and Butha-Buthe.