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Phase Two of Covid vaccine roll-out starts off by prioritising old age homes

Phase Two of Covid vaccine roll-out starts off by prioritising old age homes
Illustrative image | Sources: EPA-EFE / NIC BOTHMA | Gallo Images / Brenton Geach | Leila Dougan | Flickr

Phase Two of SA’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out is officially under way from today, Monday, 17 May. The vaccine doses are in hand, with more on the way. National and provincial governments have admitted that the start will be slow, but promised it will start on time and with some of the most vulnerable: those living in old age homes.

The process of vaccinating 16.5 million people in South Africa against Covid-19 by the end of October will begin on Monday, 17 May, as the national roll-out begins.

Provinces have admitted that the start of the Covid-19 vaccination programme will be slow. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, too, has acknowledged this.

The Department of Health has promised that 3,000 vaccination sites will be brought online during Phase Two of the programme. Those over 60 years old are able to register and receive a Covid-19 vaccine during Phase Two, which is scheduled to run from 17 May until the end of October.

Pfizer vaccines will be administered at 83 public sector sites and four private sector sites from 17 May, according to Mkhize on Sunday evening during a press briefing. He was joined by the health MECs of all nine provinces.

He said that the list of sites will be published on the SA coronavirus website, the I Choose Vaccination Bulletin and by provinces’ communication platforms.

By the end of the week, 130 public sector sites will be active and private sector sites will start to come online. This was according to Mkhize as he tabled the department’s budget vote in Parliament on 13 May.

Mkhize said that 7,707 healthcare workers and 4,288 people over 60 were receiving SMSs as he spoke on Sunday evening. More than 1.23 million people over 60 have already registered to receive the vaccine. The department hopes to vaccinate five million people over 60 by the end of June.

The department aims to vaccinate 7,707 residents of 102 old age homes by the end of the week and 50,000 old age home residents by the end of May, Mkhize said.

Walk-ins will not be accommodated on 17 May, but will be “going forward”, Mkhize said.

The vaccination numbers will increase at the end of May, he said. 

“This is because we are starting off with a new vaccine we have never used before. We have learned from Sisonke that the first few days start slowly as vaccinators get used to the new vaccine then once operators are comfortable the turnover ramps up significantly. This is what we have planned around to allow us a few days to iron out any teething problems.”

South Africa will begin the programme using the double-shot Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. The country received 325,260 doses of the vaccine on 16 May, bringing the total number of doses in hand to 975,780.

A well-placed source with first-hand knowledge regarding the J&J vaccine said it was possible that the US Food and Drug Administration would issue a report on Monday, 17 May, or Tuesday, 18 May, which will unblock the release of the vaccines at the Gqeberha facility. 

The country will receive weekly batches of about 325,260 doses until the end of May. Thereafter, it will receive batches of about 636,480 doses until the end of June.

This vaccine needs to be stored at at least -20° C and comprises two doses given three weeks apart. However, Mkhize implied that following expert advice this may be stretched to six weeks.

The department assured that the vaccine cold chain will not be disrupted by load shedding or power outages.

SA has secured millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine; however, these are still undergoing a safety audit by regulators at the Gqeberha facility of Aspen Pharmacare, where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for South Africa was being compounded. Mkhize confirmed this on 16 May.

The regulators are the United States Food and Drug Administration, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) and the European Medicines Agency.

Sahpra has given the facility the all-clear. 

“Sahpra is satisfied that it is operating at an acceptable level of compliance with the principles and guidelines of good manufacturing practice as prescribed,” said Yuven Gounden of Sahpra.

A well-placed source with first-hand knowledge regarding the J&J vaccine said it was possible that the US Food and Drug Administration would issue a report on Monday, 17 May, or Tuesday, 18 May, which will unblock the release of the vaccines at the Gqeberha facility. 

This will see the first batch of the promised 1.1 million vaccine doses being rolled out to South Africa.

Retail pharmaceutical companies Dis-Chem and Clicks, among other private companies, will also be administering vaccines. Medical aid schemes and the national Department of Health will be responsible for all costs involved. This includes a R70 administration fee as well as about R308 per Pfizer dose and R355 per Johnson & Johnson dose.

Dis-Chem has said it will administer between 500 and 600 doses a day once 11 of its 32 mass vaccination sites become active on 24 May. This will not be done in-store, “as the management of the cold chain is quite intense with the Pfizer vaccine,” national clinic manager Lizette Kruger said. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -20°C.

They had to build a “mini hospital” complete with staff and equipment, she explained.

Five of the 11 sites are in Gauteng and the remaining six are spread across the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape, she said. If there is demand and stock available, then the company will expand the number of sites, she added.

Once the J&J vaccine is released, it will be made available in Dis-Chem’s 200 stores. Only between 20 and 40 vaccinations will be done a day there, depending on the store. Their other clinic services will continue simultaneously.

Clicks has reportedly secured 47 vaccination sites, with another 520 awaiting approval. 

The Sisonke study had vaccinated 478,452 health workers by the time Phase 1A drew to a close on Saturday, 15 May. The study had aimed to vaccinate 500,000 health workers. Some doses will be administered in the Eastern Cape on Monday because of the logistics of getting the doses into rural regions, explained the co-lead investigator of the study, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker. Those healthcare workers who still wish to be vaccinated can register for and receive a vaccine during Phase 1B which will run alongside Phase Two.

The doses not used during the study will be used by the Medical Research Council “to conduct important studies and programmes that will help us to understand how the vaccines work for population groups such as persons living with HIV and other comorbidities, elite athletes, pregnant and lactating women and other special groups,” Mkhize said.

Here’s what will happen on Monday, 17 May, in each province:


The province has released a list of 28 public and private vaccination sites for Phase 1B and Phase Two of the roll-out. It implored residents to go to the sites only if they receive an SMS instructing them to go to a specific site at a specific time and date. SMS proof will be requested upon entry and no walk-ins will be allowed.

More than 291,000 people aged over 60 have registered in the province, according to the chief director of the Gauteng Department of Health, Nomsa Mmope. The province aims to vaccinate 1.3 million people over 60. It will vaccinate 26,216 residents of 218 old age homes.

The province has established a call centre to specifically help people over 60 to register for vaccination. The help service can be accessed by calling the toll-free number 0800 22 88 27. Alternatively, dial *134*47472# or WhatsApp 082 601 1000. In addition, the Gauteng App: Hotline is also available. Community workers have also been deployed to assist with registration.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura and members of the executive council are expected to visit various sites on Monday, 17 May, to observe the roll-out.

By Friday, 14 May, 124,180 healthcare workers had been vaccinated as part of the Sisonke study, according to the Gauteng Department of Health. The demand for Covid-19 vaccines outstripped the study’s supply in the province in the days leading up to the study’s conclusion.

Eastern Cape

The province will activate 14 of its 23 vaccination sites on Monday, 17 May and aims to “start small”, with 100 vaccinations a day. The remaining nine sites will come online on 24 May, according to the provincial department of health.

The sites starting vaccination on 17 May are:

  • Fort Beaufort Hospital
  • Cathcart Hospital
  • Nompumelelo Hospital in Peddie
  • Stutterheim Hospital
  • SS Gida Hospital
  • Uitenhage Hospital
  • Komga Hospital
  • Victoria Hospital
  • Hewu Hospital
  • Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital
  • Adelaide Hospital
  • Bhisho Hospital
  • Cloete Joubert Hospital in Barkly East
  • Grey Hospital

The sites starting vaccination on 24 May are:

  • Cecilia Makiwane Hospital
  • Frere Hospital
  • Madzikane kaZulu Memorial Hospital
  • Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital
  • St Patrick’s Hospital
  • Aliwal North Hospital
  • Frontier Hospital
  • Settlers Hospital
  • Taylor Bequest Hospital in Matatiele

The province will also begin vaccination in some old age homes from 17 May onwards and aims to reach 40 such facilities.

It has deployed 3,776 community health workers to go door-to-door to register people using their smartphones. So far, more than 174,000 people aged over 60 have registered in the province, according to health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth.

The province has set up a war room which meets daily to coordinate the roll-out, she said. It has received 16,000 doses but has been promised its total tally will be 43,000 by next week.

Western Cape

The province’s “outreach teams” will prioritise those living in old age homes from Monday, 17 May to 23 May. About 17,000 people living in old age homes had registered for the vaccine by 15 May.

It has 30,420 vaccines available to administer this week to these residents as well as some healthcare workers and those over 60 living outside of old age homes.

More than 226,000 people over 60 have registered for the vaccine, said Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo. The province aims to vaccinate 727,000 people over 60.

A “limited group” of over-60s would be contacted telephonically to be told where and when to present for vaccination. It assured that those who have registered will receive an SMS with this information two to three weeks after registering online. However, the head of the provincial department of health, Dr Keith Cloete, estimated the first appointments will be sent out in about two weeks.

The province will have seven active sites on 17 May:

  • Brooklyn Chest Hospital
  • Helderberg Hospital
  • Mitchells Plain Hospital
  • Khayelitsha Hospital
  • Karl Bremer Hospital
  • Brackenfell Clinic
  • Albow Gardens Clinic

More vaccination sites, including in rural areas, will come online over the next few weeks, it said.

It said it will be “scaling-up” vaccinations gradually until the end of May. It said this approach will allow it to test the systems that have been put in place in order to ensure quality service.

It emphasised that walk-ins will not be permitted and that it is important to present your ID and SMS on the scheduled day.

It has set-up a toll-free help hotline on *134*832# to assist those who want to register for Phase Two. Alternatively, WhatsApp the word “register” to 0600 123 456.

The province has said it aims to vaccinate 30,000 people a day and hopes to have vaccinated all those over 60 by the end of June. By 12 May, 202,849 people over 60 years had registered on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) – about 27% of the target population.

By 15 May, 82,685 healthcare workers had been vaccinated through the Sisonke study, according to the province.

The leaders of all political parties represented in the Western Cape provincial parliament jointly call on those over 60 years to register for the Covid-19 vaccine. Top row left to right: Masizole Mnqasela (Speaker), Premier Alan Winde (DA), Cameron Dugmore (ANC), Melikhaya Xego (EFF). Bottom row left to right: Brett Herron (Good), Ferlon Christians (ACDP), Peter Marais (FF+), Galil Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah). (Photo: Western Cape Government)


This province has also said it will have an “incremental approach” to Phase Two. It has identified the Royal Showgrounds, Pinetown Civic Centre and King Zwelithini Stadium, among others, as mass vaccination sites.

It has 27 sites identified for Phase Two and hopes to have about 600 sites ready during Phase Three, according to Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.

On 25 April, the province said it aimed to vaccinate at least 2.9 million people by October and to begin Phase Three in November. At that time, it had identified more than 90 sites and trained 7,000 people to administer the vaccines.

The Sisonke study had vaccinated 69,958 health workers by 12 May, according to Simelane-Zulu.


The province will administer 7,020 vaccine doses between 17 and 21 May across six vaccination sites. Teams will vaccinate more than 3,000 residents of the province’s 29 old age homes, according to Health MEC Sasekani Manzini.

By 11 May, the Sisonke study had vaccinated 19,402 health workers, according to the Mpumalanga Department of Health.

North West

The province will have five active sites on 17 May and will scale up to 10 sites by the end of the week, according to Health MEC Madoda Sambatha. So far, more than 59,000 people over 60 have registered.

The province has deployed outreach teams to assist with vaccine registration at Sassa paypoints and elsewhere.

Five members of the provincial command council were scheduled to “lead by example” and be vaccinated on Friday, 14 May. This was cancelled an hour before it was due to take place because of “an oversight review of the Phase 1 progress”.

The provincial department of health said: “In view of the need to do a mop-up of all the work that remains for Phase 1 including ensuring that all the registered health care workers are vaccinated, the Department has deemed it necessary to postpone the vaccination of MECs. The MECs vaccination will be rescheduled when there is a next batch of J&J available.”

By Saturday 15 May, 23,100 vaccines had been administered to North West health workers by the Sisonke study, according to the provincial department of health.

Free State

The province was preparing 97 vaccine sites last week, according to Free State Department of Health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi.

However, only two sites will be active on 17 May, according to MEC Montseng Tsiu. Both are old age homes. It hopes to vaccinate more than 258,000 people over 60 years; however, only just over 37,000 have registered so far.

The Sisonke study had vaccinated 24,163 Free State health workers in the province by 15 May, according to the provincial government.


It has approved 37 public sites and is looking to add more, according to Thilivhali Muavha, the spokesperson for Limpopo’s MEC of Health.

Six sites will be active this week, according to Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba. There are 17 sites ready and waiting to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and three old age homes will be visited. There are 91 outreach teams. More than 180,000 people aged over 60 have registered in the province, she said.

Northern Cape

The province will have only one active site on 17 May, said Health MEC Maruping Lekwane. This will be in Kimberley. It will have five vaccine sites in total by the end of the week and aims to have 30 sites in total for Phase Two.

So far, more than 11,000 people over 60 have registered in the province and about 3,000 live in Kimberley. Mobile teams will reach out to the province’s eight old age homes.

At present, the province has just over 3,000 vaccine doses.

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health has expressed concern over the province’s ability to roll out the vaccination programme with just 2,400 nurses. It also pointed out that four out of five districts are led by acting district directors.

The Sisonke study had vaccinated 9,270 health workers by 15 May, according to the Northern Cape Department of Health.

How to register

Register to be vaccinated during Phase Two on the Electronic Vaccination Data System

Alternatively, register on WhatsApp by sending “REGISTER” to 0600 123 456.

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 using these services.

If you encounter any issues, call the Covid-19 hotline on 0800 029 999. DM/MC


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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