To: Editors & Health Journalists

Issued by: Department of Health

Date: Saturday, 27 February 2021




South Africa is rapidly and successfully rolling out delivery of the early access JnJ vaccine to healthcare workers through the Sisonke Programme. Within just over one week, from a standing start, 63,648 patient-facing healthcare workers in the public and private sector have been vaccinated against COVID19. The Sisonke Programme is outperforming original targets for number of vaccines delivered in its first week and is set to continue this momentum in its second week as more sites come online.


On Tuesday Johnson and Johnson (JnJ) filed an updated set of trial results with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review, taking into account additional follow-up time for people enrolled in the trials. South Africa welcomes the news that the single dose JnJ vaccine is even more efficacious than previously expected with a 64% efficacy rate at preventing the more contagious 501Y.V2 variant. We further welcome the news that the expert panel at the FDA unanimously recommended the vaccine for approval last night. FDA approval of the single dose JnJ vaccine for general use is expected this weekend, paving the wave for similar approval by SAHPRA in a few weeks. Until then, the early access JnJ vaccine will continue to be provided through the Sisonke partnership between government and the South African MRC.


The rapid rollout of the vaccine to healthcare workers is a critical first step in the three-phase national vaccination roll out plan. In just under one week, the Sisonke Programme has set up 18 vaccination sites from scratch, developed and implemented complex logistics (including cold chain management, distribution of vaccines, vial filling), trained additional vaccinators, set up an online electronic registration system and ensured the safe and timely vaccination of tens of thousands of healthcare workers.


The demand for the early access JnJ vaccine continues to increase. The Department of Health, the Sisonke Programme team and private sector partners are encouraged by the turnout of colleagues at vaccination sites. Healthcare workers are demonstrating vaccine confidence and trust in the system. We welcome and applaud this effort, and appeal to healthcare workers to practice patience as we continue to scale up the roll out of this unprecedented life-saving national effort to colleagues who have been at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.


The original Sisonke Programme targets were set using best practice implementation science and modelled on projections of likely demand based on available data. Real life rollout has shown that demand from healthcare workers is in excess of original estimates. In order to ensure the quickest and most efficient rollout possible, the rollout will be adjusted so that the selection of new and additional vaccination sites will start early next week, ahead of schedule. This will occur in consultation with provinces and will seek to extend the programme outside major centres.


At a national level the Sisonke Programme has exceeded expectations. We are aware that there are pockets of challenge dispersed across the country, and we are working hard to solve for these problems as efficiently as possible. We appeal to healthcare workers to support us in this national effort by following the registration guidelines and practicing patience at sites. Each healthcare worker is a vital part of the healthy functioning of our health system. We will endeavour to ensure that all healthcare workers are vaccinated in a timeous and fair way, starting with patient-facing healthcare workers who are at the highest risk of contracting severe COVID-19 and therefore receiving priority status in this part of Phase 1. The rapid protection of patient facing healthcare workers is an urgent priority for the health system and for the nation.


We want to urge all healthcare workers to use the government’s EVDS system to register and liaise with your relevant Hospital leadership or GP group to ensure you have appropriately completed your electronic registration and consent process resulting in an electronic voucher prior to attending one of vaccination sites. Please remember: no voucher, no vaccination. This will allow for better planning and management of queues.


We have developed a user-friendly registration guide to walk you through the registration process. You can find the guide here:


Coronavirus Hotline Number: 0800 029 999 (available 24/7)

Send HI to 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp.

Download the COVIDAlertSA App


For queries related to the Sisonke Programme please dial: 0800 014 956



Mr Popo Maja


National Department of Health

Cell: 072 585 3219/ 082 373 1169