“It’s a very exciting day,” said Health Minister Zweli Mkhize as he spoke to the media outside the Munsieville Care Centre for the Aged in Gauteng’s West Rand.
He confirmed that all 87 vaccination sites had begun administering Covid-19 vaccines by 11am on 17 May.
The daily number of doses administered will increase as the week goes on, he said. About 200 sites will be active by the end of the week.
Mkhize was visiting the Munsieville Care Centre for the Aged with Gauteng premier David Makhura and MEC for health Nomathemba Mokgethi as part of an oversight visit in Gauteng.
Those who had registered were ushered into the hall in groups of 10 at a time to avoid overcrowding. By 11am, staff had vaccinated 20 of the more than 800 registered residents.
Mkhize was satisfied with how the systems were functioning at the care centre and commended the healthcare workers on their skill and speed.
Several religious leaders came forward to be vaccinated on 17 May.
Faith leaders from the South African Council of Churches were vaccinated at the Esangweni community health centre in Tembisa “to show the way”, said Rev Frank Chikane, vice president of the SACC.
“We want to say to the people: we all grew up with vaccines. We all went to school with a card that showed which vaccines you took… all of us are what we are because of vaccines. There’s no reason for people to fear vaccines,” he said.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah received their first vaccine jabs at Brooklyn Chest Hospital outside Cape Town.
“All my life I have tried to do the right thing and, today, getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is definitely the right thing to do,” said the archbishop.
“That’s why Leah and I took this step… to do our part to start the national healing process so we can end this pandemic. We have to do this together.
“Believe me, when you get to our age, little needles worry you far less than bending over does.
“It was wonderful to get out of the house and meet these dedicated healthcare workers who gave us our vaccines. Leah and I signed up to be vaccinated a while ago because we know this will help save our loved ones from worry and heartbreak, and ourselves from this terrible disease.
“To all of you on the frontlines who have been working to keep us safe for more than a year now, I salute you,” he added. “God bless all of you for your selfless service to our citizens and our country.”
It was an emotional day because those over 60 can “live in dignity” with less fear and isolation, said Dr Keith Cloete, head of the Western Cape’s health department. “This is the first step to normalising what we do in our society,” he said.
Only a third of those older than 60 in the Western Cape have registered to be vaccinated. Cloete explained that this goes beyond vaccine hesitancy. The province’s data shows that people in underprivileged areas are struggling to access the registration platform, he explained.
The province will send mobile teams to areas where registration is low to provide people with an opportunity to register, he said.
Meanwhile, vaccinations began only after noon in the North West, according to the SABC. The province activated five vaccination sites, with more expected to come online on Tuesday, 18 May. More than 59,000 residents over the age of 60 have registered so far.
The Northern Cape began administering vaccines at Harmony Home, a satellite of the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital, and sent mobile teams to eight old age homes in the Sol Plaatje municipality. The province hopes to vaccinate all residents in old age homes in this municipality this week.
Right now, it is in a position to vaccinate 3,510 people with the Pfizer vaccine it has in stock.
It expects to open another 30 sites in the province “over the coming days and weeks” as it receives more doses, the provincial department of health said in a statement on 17 May.
It has vaccinated 65% of all its healthcare workers, leaving just more than 9,000 to be vaccinated during Phase 1B.
The Free State had prepared to start the roll-out with two vaccination sites. Vaccination went ahead at Thekolohelong Old Age Home in QwaQwa “without glitches”, said the province’s head of communications Mondli Mvambi.
However, vaccination at Boikhuco Old Age Home in Mangaung, formerly known as Bloemfontein, was disrupted by protests in the town, he said.
Nonetheless, a total of 264 people over the age of 60 were vaccinated on 17 May. The province had 1,170 doses available at the start of 17 May and plans to bring 97 sites online as soon as its vaccine stock increases.
In the Eastern Cape, 80 people were vaccinated at Stutterheim Hospital, according to provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo. Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth visited the hospital as part of an oversight visit. The Eastern Cape vaccinated 1,673 people today.
Meanwhile, Discovery Health will be setting up more than 20 vaccination sites across the country, company chief executive Adrian Gore said in a letter to members on 17 May. The company will make use of Discovery offices, Virgin Active clubs and other large venues for the vaccinations.
However, these sites are still awaiting accreditation and vaccine supply from the department of health, but the company’s headquarters in Sandton have already been adapted. It is now a large-scale vaccination centre with more than 30 staff able to administer 2,500 jabs a day.
These sites will not accept walk-ins. People will be directed there by the electronic vaccination data system run by the department of health.
How to register
Register to be vaccinated during Phase 2 here: https://vaccination.health.gov.za/#/.
Alternatively, register on WhatsApp by sending “REGISTER” to 0600 123456.
Or register by SMS by dialling *134*832*your ID number#. If you don’t have an ID number, just dial *134*832#. You do not need a smartphone, airtime or data to register by SMS.
If you encounter any difficulties, call the Covid-19 hotline on 0800 029 999. DM/MC
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