South Africa

CORONAVIRUS WEEKLY DIGEST #33

South Africa expands roll-out, SIU freezes assets of decontamination companies and Olympians get a Covid jab

Compilation image: Sahra Heuwel

This week, the second week of the country’s rollout expanded its scope as more sites came online. Meanwhile, the full extent of the irregular Digital Vibes deal was revealed and the Special Investigating Unit froze the assets of some decontamination companies. And Olympians receive donated vaccine doses.

Feature image: MC-WeeklyDigest-28May: Compilation image by Sahra Heuwel.

Second week of vaccinations: A day-by-day account

This week, South Africa administered 181,118 doses of the double-shot Pfizer vaccine bringing the total to 348,204 by the morning of 28 May. 

To see what happened on each day this week, read more below: 

Day Six: More sites added as roll-out enters second week

Day Seven: Tito Mboweni vaccinated, Dis-chem opens another five mass vaccination sites

Day Eight: Provincial daily tallies published – and hackers meddle with the registration site

Day 9: Western Cape allows walk-ins while Mediclinic waits for its first vaccine delivery

Read more:  The Sisonke trial rewrote history: Eight lessons for the nationwide vaccine roll-out

vaccination
Elderly people wait for vaccinations at Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein on 24 May 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw)

‘Dishonest people are spoiling a good system’: How the public tried to hack the EVDS

South Africa’s Electronic Vaccination Data System has not failed, but it has been abused by members of the public. People under 60 years old have been misrepresenting themselves as healthcare workers on the system in order to get an appointment and receive a vaccine dose before they are eligible, according to Dr Nicholas Crisp who leads the team in charge of the system. As a result, the healthcare worker section of the portal has been shut down. Read the report by Estelle Ellis here.

vaccine cheats
Health workers queue for vaccines at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daliy Maverick)

J&J vaccines still in Gqeberha plant

More than 31 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine remain at Aspen Pharmacare’s Gqeberha plant. The US Food and Drug Administration is yet to release a safety audit — done at all manufacturers of the vaccine around the world — which is a requirement before these vaccine doses can be released. Read the report by Estelle Ellis here.

J&J vaccines
Vials are lined up for filling at the Aspen plant. (Picture: Aspen Pharmacare)

Storage conditions changed for Pfizer vaccine

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has followed its international counterparts in approving a change to the storage conditions of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccine can now be stored in a fridge for a month. Read more about how this could benefit the country’s rollout here.

Read more: Help to make Covid-19 vaccines safe – Report any vaccine-related adverse events no matter how mild

The new storage rules for the Pfizer vaccine could help South Africa administer the jabs faster, save costs and avoid waste. (Photo: EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL)

Department of Health’s irregular R150m Digital Vibes deal

This week, minister of health Zweli Mkhize said the department’s R150-million deal with Digital Vibes was irregular. Scorpio first revealed this in February 2021 and has been digging ever since. Read the full investigation by Pieter-Louis Myburgh here.

Read more: Digital Vibes – The real tragedy is they chowed the money that could have been used to save lives

Read more: How South Africa dropped the ball on health communication

Zweli Mkhize, Tahera Mather, Naadhira Mitha, 26 March 2019. (Photo: Facebook) / Health Minister Zeli Mkhize.

SIU freezes bank accounts and assets of decontamination companies

The Special Investigating Unit has frozen the bank accounts and assets of 14 companies for rendering unnecessary decontamination services to the Gauteng Department of Education. This follows an investigation by Maverick Citizen in January 2021. The investigation is still underway, but there was enough evidence of irregularity to warrant the freeze. Read the report by Victoria O’Regan here.

International Olympic Committee donates vaccines to SA Olympians

South Africa’s Olympians have been receiving their dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since 21 May. The doses were donated by the International Olympic Committee and the vaccination is recommended but voluntary. The vaccine is available to athletes as well as the Team South Africa members going to Japan. Read the report by Yanga Sibembe here. DM/MC.

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