'No vaccines being given away' - WC Health Dept says social media message false

The Western Cape Health Department's Mark van der Heever said that they were aware of false claims that Mitchell’s Plain Hospital and other facilities had extra Johnson and Johnson doses to give away.

FILE: In this file photo taken on 5 March 2021 registered nurse Florisa N. Lingad holds a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center established at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Health Department has responded to a fake message on social media indicating that vaccines will be made available to the public on Friday.

The department's Mark van der Heever said that they were aware of false claims that Mitchell’s Plain Hospital and other facilities had extra Johnson & Johnson doses to give away.

"The Western Cape Department of Health would like to reiterate that no vaccines are being given away. The current phase one of the vaccination programme is administered to healthcare workers only under the Sisonke Implementation Study, which concludes on the 15th of May," Van der Heever said.

He urged people not to go to vaccination sites until they'd received an SMS indicating their date, site and unique code.

JUMPING THE QUEUE

The Western Cape Health Department said that the Sisonke Johnson & Johnson vaccines was not for the general public and was meant for healthcare workers.

Recently there have been reports of people who had been vaccinated who were not on the list. The Sisonke trial started in February and is set to be completed by this weekend.

Provincial head of Health, Dr Keith Cloete, said that the vaccines that were used for Sisonke were prepared for its trials. He said that the undertaking was that it needed to be used by a certain date and administered to people with specific criteria.

"Sisonke also then did a broadening of criteria so that not only frontline healthcare workers but people who are associated with and work in the healthcare system could also be vaccinated," Cloete explained.

He said that where the confusion started was when Sisonke put a notice out for healthcare workers to come forward because they needed to get through the vaccines.

These included people who worked in care homes and researchers at universities.

Cloete said that, unfortunately, those two messages got conflated.

"There have been unfortunate episodes that have arisen out of this and, unfortunately, some people used this opportunistically as an opportunity to jump the queue, which was unfortunate, it was never the intention."

He said that whatever vaccines were not used by Saturday would be returned as part of research protocol.

Health officials have reiterated that the vaccines were not expiring, only that the trial date was coming to an end.

Premier Alan Winde said that jumping the queue was unacceptable.

"It is absolutely not acceptable to try and cheat the system, to push your way in fro of a vulnerable citizen or healthcare worker. That is unacceptable, not cool at all. We definitely need everyone to stand together here. Let's do this properly," the premier said.

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