Friday, 09 July 2021

Pretoria: South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is next month expected to gain further momentum, with those aged between 35 and 49 years, set to be vaccinated.

While registrations will begin on 15 July, government will begin inoculating this group on 1 August.

This was on Friday revealed by Acting Health Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, during a media briefing. The briefing was held amid a sustained rise in infections, hospitalisations and related deaths in the past seven days.

Healthcare workers were the first to be vaccinated in March under the Johnson & Johnson Sisonke programme. A month later, government began administering vaccines in the over 60 population.

Two weeks ago, over 500 000 basic education workers began receiving their doses. Last week, the programme began focusing on those aged 50 and above. Personnel in the security sector this week started being vaccinated.

In the last 24 hours, the country recorded 22 910 new cases, representing a 34.4% positivity rate. Of these, 11 747 were in Gauteng.

Overall, Kubayi-Ngubane said government’s vaccination programme has made significant strides.

“We have learned lessons from when we started, and we continue to improve our systems as we work and continue moving forward,” she said.

Last week, the programme received a shot in the arm when the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) granted approval for the use of the Sinovac vaccine.

“The approval came at a time when the demand for vaccines was [increasing].

“More people are yearning to get vaccinated. [This] will boost the vaccine supply for the country’s vaccination rollout programme.”

Sinovac is in addition to the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines already utilised in the country.

Kubayi-Ngubane said while indications are that the number of cases in Gauteng have peaked and are now declining, the province remains the country’s epicentre.

“We should never let our guards down and think that [it is over].”

She expressed concern over the rise in numbers in the Western Cape, Limpopo, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

In this regard, she said government is ramping up its vaccination rollout programme to ensure that vaccines can reach the majority of the population and ensure that more people are protected from the impact of the virus.

As of Thursday, South Africa was surpassing 191 000 vaccinations a day.

“We’re expecting to surpass 250 000 vaccinations by next week,” the acting Minister said.

Overall, the country has to date vaccinated four million people – partially or fully.

“This is [a] milestone, although we know that many people are saying this is not yet enough because when we compare it with the percentage of the population, it’s still a bit of a challenge.

“We have to make sure that the vaccine reaches all South Africans as quickly as possible. We will now pay attention to vaccinations per district, and make the research intervention, working together with provinces, to ensure that in each district in every local municipality, there is access to the vaccine,” she said.

This week, the Department of Health held a bilateral meeting with National Treasury to discuss the funding of the vaccination programme.

In this regard, the department will begin availing of human capital to vaccinate over weekends from 1 August.