Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, is anticipating a slow start to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout that gets underway this week.
This as South Africa begins the second phase of its vaccination rollout plan, that gets underway on Monday.
“This is because we are starting off with a new vaccine we have never used before. We have learned from Sisonke [Study] 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,” said the Minister.
Mkhize announced that 87 sites would open their doors to vaccinate the elderly after the country received 975 780 Pfizer vaccines as of 17 March 2021.
He stated that citizens cannot choose which vaccine they receive at this stage.
“When you get vaccinated you will be informed which vaccine you are getting, and if a second dose is needed.”
He said people will receive the date, time and place of their second dose by SMS or a card, which will be issued on the day of vaccination if a vaccinee does not have a phone.
“Most people will get their first and second doses at the same site.”
He said Pfizer vaccines are safe and work well, even against the variant that is dominant in this country.
“After 14 days, one starts to show markers of immunity. There is now very good literature to show that the interval between doses can be increased to six weeks and in the UK they showed good results after three months,” he explained.
“We are getting advice from our experts who will guide us on the best interval – citizens must present on the date they are given for the second dose.”
He said many people have mild symptoms after vaccination.
These include flu-like symptoms like mild fever, headache, tiredness, as well as redness, swelling and pain at the injection site.
However, Mkhize said these disappear within a day or two, and can be managed at home with rest and paracetamol.
“If you have more serious symptoms such as severe headache, severe abdominal pain or severe limb pain you should phone our COVID hotline, 0800 029 999 for advice or seek care at your local clinic or hospital.”
Mkhize has urged citizens to register for their COVID-19 jab to protect themselves from contracting severe disease or dying from it.
“However, no vaccine works 100% and we also still do not know whether vaccination prevents transmission of the virus. It is therefore still important to follow the standard COVID-19 safety precautions to protect yourself and those around you.”
He said it was still unclear how long the protection offered by the vaccine will last.
“Doctors and scientists are working to understand this better and we will keep the public informed of these details.”