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South Africa to welcome first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines

South Africa is preparing a hero's welcome Monday for the delivery of its first COVID-19 vaccines — 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be part of the red-carpet welcome at Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport for the shipment of the vaccines, which will be followed up later this month by another 500,000 doses of the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccines will be used to inoculate South Africa's frontline health workers, which will be the start of the country’s vaccination campaign. The first jabs are expected to be administered in mid-February, after the vaccines are tested and approved by South Africa's drug regulatory authorities.

A man walks past a coronavirus-themed mural promoting the use of face mask in public place, in Sebokeng, Vereeniging, South Africa, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. (AP PhotoThemba Hadebe)

The government intends to inoculate 40 million people, representing 67% of the country's population of 60 million, by the end of the year.

South Africa's scramble to acquire adequate vaccines to reach that ambitious target received a substantial boost with the news that it has acquired 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. They are expected to arrive in the second quarter of the year, the government confirmed to The Associated Press.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize will announce the cost of the Pfizer vaccines at a later date, said Lwazi Manzi, spokeswoman for the health ministry.

Land is excavated to make way for more burial space in the Maitland cemetery in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The City of Cape Town is working closely with the Muslim Judicial Council to increase burial capacity as COVID-19 claims more lives in a second surge of the pandemic. (AP PhotoNardus Engelbrecht)

In the coming months, South Africa is expecting to receive 6 million vaccine doses from the international COVAX facility, 9 million of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it is approved, and an additional 20 million from the African Union’s vaccine acquisition task team. Further acquisitions of vaccines will be needed to meet the government’s inoculation target.

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak