After months of planning, SA’s Phase 2 of COVID vaccine drive kicks off today

Fanned out across nine provinces and 87 sites, healthcare workers and those licensed to administer vaccines will start with the mammoth task which will kick off mostly at old age homes.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - It's taken months of preparations amid confusion, impatience and doubts from frustrated South Africans but the country's much anticipated second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is finally launching on Monday.

Fanned out across nine provinces and 87 sites, healthcare workers and those licensed to administer vaccines will start the mammoth task, which will kick off mostly at old age homes.

Thousands of health workers who are yet to receive their jabs will also be accommodated.

On Sunday night, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, health MECs and other representatives outlined their plans for the nation.

READ: Don't miss your appointment and no walk-ins: COVID-19 vaccination phase 2

Mkhize is under no illusion about what lies ahead and what it will take to get it all done.

“Five million senior citizens are targeted to be completed by the end of June, provided that the supply of vaccines flow as anticipated.”

To put this into context, that’s just 44 days for this target to be met and given some of the setbacks experienced during the Sisonke implementation study, the government will face many sceptics.

“We know that everyone has been very anxious to know what will happen and how we will start to vaccinate our most vulnerable citizens and then move onto vaccinating the general population,” Mkhize said.

According to the minister, more than 1.2 million senior citizens have registered to be inoculated so far and the aim is to get to 7,707 at old age homes this week. Officials also hope to vaccinate an additional 700,000 health workers during this time.

To see off a smoother transition, thousands of text messages are already being sent out to citizens 60 years and above, so that when their turn comes there’s better preparation.

On Monday morning, the country should have more than 975,000 Pfizer vaccines in stock, which require careful and stringent storage to kick off phase two of its ambitious campaign.

FOCUS ON OLD AGE HOMES

Mkhize has stressed that Monday or this week is not open to all senior citizens 60 year and above. The focus will be on old age homes.

“We recommend that as many people as possible register beforehand. We will not accommodate people walking into the vaccination sites, the program has been designed to avoid long queues, that's why we want to keep people on going in based on the message inviting them for vaccination.”

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However, some provinces such as Mpumalanga and the North West, which have smaller populations, have said they would accommodate senior citizens who would have travelled long distances to vaccination sites.

Mkhize knows that this effort will require all the help and thoroughness and that’s why the process will start slow.

“This is just to know how many vaccines you will get out of a vial and how you draw out the requisite amount, to allow us a few days to iron out teething problems and we expect some there will be many teething problems so we are expected to start slow.”

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