Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says it is all systems go as the country embarks on its second day of the COVID-19 mass vaccination rollout plan.
Despite a successful first day on Monday, Mkhize acknowledged that some provinces experienced a few challenges.
Speaking at the Royal Showgrounds mass vaccination centre in Pietermaritzburg where religious leaders joined him, Mkhize said provinces had to contend with load shedding.
According to the Minister, while power cuts did not affect the vaccine’s cold chain, as there were contingency plans in place, it created challenges with the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).
“Load shedding disabled the system and made the reception a bit slow and had to use a lot of manual records for that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t derail our Electronic Vaccination Data System,” he said on Tuesday.
According to Mkhize, the EVDS recorded 11 000 people who received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. However, the Minister said the figure is yet to be reconciled with vaccinees that were recorded manually.
In addition, some areas like Bloemfontein in the Free State, had to shut down a centre after disruptions sparked by protests.
“The other issues that we’ve noticed was that there was a slow start because people are still getting used to this and some were indicating that the mixing got them in a difficulty. Therefore, they lost the last dose. Every vile has six people that must be vaccinated,” he explained.
However, he believes that the wastage will be less as the vaccinators gets the hang of things.
Mkhize said more vaccination centres were operational on Tuesday and that government is targeting to open over 3 300 sites by end of September.
While the number of vaccines that are coming will be less for the first two months, Mkhize said these will start to scale up from July.
Between now and June, the Minister believes that South Africa would have received about six million lifesaving jabs.
“We’re trying to get more than that but because of some of the delays; we’re actually getting our deliveries rescheduled for later on in the year.”
The Minister said government is targeting to vaccinate 250 000 people per day to reach 16 million people during the second phase, which is currently focusing on those aged 60 and above.
“We’d like our people to be very patient because we might want to delay the second dose by up to three months. If that happens, don’t feel aggrieved. We want to make sure that we reach as many people as possible and build up immunity.”
Mkhize said government is looking into extending the interval between initial and booster doses of the shot to three months.
“The evidence coming from the UK has shown there’s better immunity developing if someone gets a second booster dose after three months than if you do that after three weeks. So, there’s no challenge as such if we were to delay.”
In addition, he said they are pushing to vaccinate all the healthcare workers by the end of the week.