Newsflash: Covid-19

Registration for vaccines to open for all on 16 April, although supply will be ‘somewhat constrained’

By Estelle Ellis 9 April 2021

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Sebastien Nogier)

The Health Department has revealed details of the phased roll-out, including to the elderly, workers over 40 and those in congregate settings such as old-age homes and prisons.

Electronic registration for everyone who wishes to receive vaccines in South Africa will open on 16 April, Dr Leslie Bamford who is coordinating the roll-out programme, announced on Friday, 9 April. Registration will be open for all but the vaccines will be rolled out in two phases – on 17 May and 17 October.

Bamford, who was presenting details of the plan to civil society and other stakeholders, said vaccine supply will still be “somewhat constrained” in the second quarter (May to August) but will ease up significantly after that.

The Pfizer vaccine, requiring two shots, would be rolled out in the metros where the necessary facilities were available, while rural areas would get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Phase 2 would target those over 60, workers aged 40 and older and those living in congregate settings such as old-age homes and prisons. Bamford said that while those with comorbidities will not be specifically targeted in this phase, she believed most will be covered by the age requirement.

She added that they are still not quite sure when the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in South Africa.

Since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was now locally produced – at Aspen Pharmacare’s facility in Gqeberha – it would shorten the availability time frame to five days. This is longer for imported vaccines.

“We are expecting the first doses from Aspen this month,” she said.

Bamford said vaccinations will be set up in public venues such as schools, halls and shopping centres, as well as GP practices, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

The electronic vaccination data system for self-registration would open for registration for all on 16 April. An identity document or “equivalent proof” would be needed to access vaccinations. Provision would be made at vaccination sites for those who couldn’t access the electronic system.

Bamford added that people will be screened for Covid-19 at the vaccination sites and those with symptoms will not be vaccinated but referred for testing.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that by 17 May they will have vaccinated about 500,000 health workers with the Johnson & Johnson jab through the Sisonke Early Access Programme.

The rest of the health workers – between 600,000 and 700,000 – would be vaccinated in a process in parallel with phase 2 of the roll-out.

Mkhize said they decided on age as the determining factor for first access to the vaccine because this has been a major factor in Covid-19 hospital admissions.

Those under 40 would be vaccinated during the third phase from 17 October.

Mkhize stressed again that the government is committed to ensuring equitable access. He said vaccines will be shared between the private and public sectors, while the “uninsured” will receive equal access to the shots. DM/MC

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