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South Africa’s vaccination programme is gaining momentum, with over 15 000 healthcare workers having already received their Johnson & Johnson shot in five days.

“South Africa is rapidly moving to protect its highly valued healthcare workers through the Sisonke Early Access Programme,” said the Health Department.

According to the latest data, there are 15 388 health workers who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 since the launch date of 17 February 2020.

Citing a World Health Organisation report, the department said healthcare workers are a vulnerable group.

“A threat to their safety and wellbeing has a further impact on the health systems capacity to deal with people with COVID-19 during the pandemic,” said the department in a statement on Sunday.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides 57% protection against moderate-severe disease, 85% defence against severe disease and 100% against death, based on evidence from the clinical trials that included South African participants.

Public-private partnership

Following discussions with stakeholders from the private sector, the National Department of Health and the Sisonke Early Access Programme have allocated one-third of all vaccine doses available for private healthcare workers.

“This means that one-third of the first 80 000 vaccines will be allocated to the private sector over the next 14 days.”

The department is committed to seeing all healthcare professionals irrespective of where they work, being vaccinated.

“This is critical and is aligned with the national prioritisation framework for phase one of the national vaccine roll-out programme.”

The department said the collaboration with the private sector culminated in the first round of private sector healthcare worker vaccinations being delivered on 20 February 2021.

Despite limited planning time and change to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the programme has already vaccinated more than 3 000 healthcare workers from the private sector.

“This was only made possible through close cooperation between the department of health officials, site staff, private sector leadership and the Sisonke Programme staff.”

The department said the response of private healthcare professionals has been heartening and exceeded expectations across several sites.

“The confidence by healthcare workers in the vaccine and the protection it offers is evident in the queues and higher than planned demand from doctors and nurses across the country.”

The department said the demand from healthcare workers is mirrored in many other countries including the United Kingdom and India and is not unique to South Africa.

“We appreciate the patience of healthcare workers as we work tirelessly to roll out this large-scale programme in record time.”

Alleviating long queues

Meanwhile, the department is resolving other issues to alleviate the waiting period.

“We are confident that our partnership across public and private sectors will help to overcome these short-term process challenges and result in us being able to protect many healthcare workers in a shorter period of time.”

This as government is fully committed to protecting vulnerable healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much over the past year in putting themselves on the frontline.

“They have dealt with so much loss, pain and tragedy and we see their desire to be vaccinated as an expression of their hope, confidence and optimism.”

The department said it appreciates the leaders across the health system who have volunteered their time and expertise to help the national effort.

The department is urging all healthcare workers to use the government’s Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) to register https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za.

“Please bring with you your ID, e-voucher and mobile phone. This will allow for better planning and management of queues,” it said.


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