Friday, 23 July 2021

Pretoria: South Africa’s vaccination programme is picking up pace, as the country aims to surpass the 300 000 target and inoculate at least 400 000 people per day.

Acting Health Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi, on Friday said the number of those who have been vaccinated surpassed the six million mark on Thursday.

“It’s a milestone for us and we’re quite excited about it. But we do note that in terms of our population, it’s still a very low [number].”

The number of daily-administered vaccines has been ranging between 225 000 and 250 000 a day.

“Although yesterday [the numbers] dropped, we’re very confident that we will see our target being reached,” the Minister said at a briefing on Friday.

She said the vaccination programme has picked up speed because of a productive and coordinated working relationship between government and the private sector.

The Minister also paid a special tribute to the healthcare workers, vaccinators, data capturers, those assisting with queues at health facilities, and those who are working behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Kubayi said the private sector, through Business for South Africa (B4SA), is working closely with government to bring vaccines to the people.

The Minister told the media that through this collaboration, they have managed to rope in 1 500 volunteers. These include doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers to help to vaccinate on weekends at various sites across all nine provinces.

Age-based approached

The Minister announced that the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccines has agreed to do away with sectoral prioritisation to inoculation.

“The age-based strategy will be our approach going forward. It is more effective and helps us to reach a wider spectrum of South Africans,” she explained.

Meanwhile, she said they are in the final stages in terms of the next cohort that is legible to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As soon as we’re ready, the announcement will be made in the coming week or so, it can even be days. We’re not looking at 30 plus, we’re looking at the 18 plus [age group],” she told the media.

In addition, the Minister said they have reprogrammed the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) to allow for self-scheduling, meaning people will now choose the site where they want to receive their jab, including the date that suits them.

In addition, Isizulu, IsiXhosa, Sesotho, and Afrikaans have gone live on the site and the department is still working on other languages.

Mass vaccination sites

Kubayi said government has agreed with the Solidarity Fund that there should be mass vaccination sites in all metros to cater to the large population densities.

“The first model will be roving vaccination sites, which will move from one community to the next, based on the demand,” she explained.

According to the Health Department’s Director-General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, the additional sites in different areas will ensure equitable coverage of the population.

In addition, Buthelezi said they will also be focusing on the temporary outreach sites, such as those found at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pay points.

“We can get more numbers, as compared to the nearest public health facility,” he said, adding that the plan is to target the elderly they have missed.

Meanwhile, Buthelezi said according to the snap survey they have conducted, 30% of the people approached at sites said they do not want the vaccine, while 13% said they had concerns about the safety of vaccines. However, 40% informed the team they have already received the jab and 30% indicated that they would vaccinate on the day the survey was conducted.

The roving teams will consist of those who will visit community areas and do mass vaccinations to ensure vaccines are brought to the people.

Buthelezi said they are planning to administer more than 1 000 vaccinations per day at each site from August to January 2022.

Private sector sites

B4SA’s Martin Kingston said the private sector is currently administering about 121 000 jabs a day.

However, he believes that the country will be able to break through the target, and even reach 420 000 across the public and private sectors by September.

“That will enable us to administer some 35 million first doses by the end of this year,” he said, adding some private sector distributors are still awaiting permits and are almost ready to come online.

“We think that means that 50% of the over 35-year-olds should have received their first dose by the end of August.” Kingston said.