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High hopes for vaccination programme

Written by Allison Cooper

Every adult in South Africa will have the opportunity to be vaccinated against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said government aims to vaccinate about 40 million people through its vaccination programme.

He assured South Africans that an effective vaccination programme is in place and vaccines will be made available to people across the country.

Responding to questions in Parliament recently, the
President said the vaccination programme is an unprecedented process.

This will be the first time in South Africa’s history that a national vaccination programme aimed at adults will be rolled out. 

“It is going to reach into the real heart of our country, in the rural areas, in the urban areas, and all over,” he added.

The Preisdent said government will spare no cost to protect South Africans from the pandemic.

“When it comes to ensuring the health our people by providing vaccines, the South African government is going to make sure that we pull out all stops and we will provide the finanaces to do precisely that.”

Government is committed to ensuring that every person 18 years and older will be able to be vaccinated, free at the point of vaccination.

“The costs will be covered from public funds for uninsured people and medical aids for those who are insured, as part of prescribed minimum benefits,” said President Ramaphosa.

Electronic Vaccine Data System

Every person to be vaccinated must register on the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS), after which they will receive details of the date and time of their vaccination.

President Ramaphosa de-scribed the EVDS as the backbone of the vaccination programme.

“The EVDS provides an end-to-end solution that is used to digitally capture each event in the vaccination process and provides data to monitor all vaccinations administered,” he explained.

Government has put measures in place to ensure that all South Africans are able register on the system.

“As many South Africans do not have access to the internet, both digital and walk-in systems will be used for registration, and people can also register on a toll-free helpline.”

Vaccination phases

The President said the first goal of the vaccination programme is to rapidly reduce the number of people who get very sick or die from COVID-19.

The second goal is to achieve ‘population immunity’.

“It is estimated that population immunity will be achieved when around 67% of the country’s population has achieved immunity.This amounts to around 40 million people,” he explained.

The magnitude of the vaccination programme requires dedicated staff at national, provincial and district levels. 

“Based on the experience of Phase 1, staffing requirements and norms for vaccination sites have been estimated to guide planning, budgeting and recruitment. These norms may vary depending on the specifics of particular sites,” the President said.

Evidence shows that age is the factor most strongly associated with the severity of COVID-19. For this reason, Phase 2 of the vaccination programme will target all people over 60.

“At the same time, it will target people of 40 and older in vulnerable settings, such as frontline workers,” explained the President.

Phase 3 of the vaccination programme will target the rest of the adult population.

Vaccination sites

A range of vaccination sites have been identified across the country, including primary healthcare clinics, community pharmacies, general practitioners, public and private hospitals and travel clinics, among others.

“Vaccinations will also be done by mobile teams, at mass vaccination sites set up at conference centres and other facilities, and in some workplaces, such as government departments, mines and factories.”

By the end of April, the Department of Health had enrolled 3 357 accredited vaccination sites.

The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in South Africa in early May.

“Government has now finalised contracts for sufficient vaccine doses to vaccinate 41.5 million people.

“The estimated times for the delivery of the vaccines depends on several factors, many of which are beyond our control,” the President said.

The contractual delivery schedule is as follows:

In quarter two of 2021:

  • 3 million J&J doses.
  • 4.5 million Pfizer doses from the contract with Pfizer.
  • 1.4 million Pfizer doses from the Covax facility.

In quarter three of 2021:

  • 9.1 million J&J doses.
  • 8.5 million Pfizer doses

In quarter four of 2021:

  • 19.1 million J&J doses.
  • 7 million Pfizer doses.

In total, South Africa is schedule to receive:

  • 31.2 million J&J doses.
  • 21.4 million Pfizer doses, including the Covax allocation