Slow vaccine rollout raises doubts over Health Dept's target of reaching 5m jabs

Public health expert, Professor Moshe Moshabela, said that he was concerned about the targets set by government and what missing them would mean for already dwindling public confidence.

FILE: The elderly are guided through the admin process ahead of vaccination at a Krugersdorp old age home on 17 May 2021. Picture: Zweli Mkhize/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - There’s anxiety around whether the Health Department will make its own target of vaccinating 5 million people over the age of 60 by the end of this month, with public confidence in government’s rollout on the line.

There are less than two weeks to go before the deadline and several provinces are lagging behind, with some failing to reach 50% of their targets.

So far, around 1.5 million people over 60 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot.

Last week, it emerged that two million Johnson & Johnson jabs earmarked for South Africa’s roll out had to be destroyed as a safety precaution.

“Five million senior citizens are targeted to be complicit by end of June, provided a supply of vaccines flows as anticipated.”

That is the target set by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who is currently on special leave, last month. He made that announcement on the eve of the start of the vaccination program for people over the age of 60, known as Phase 2.

Public health expert, Professor Moshe Moshabela, said that he was concerned about the targets set by government and what missing them would mean for already dwindling public confidence.

“So you'll hear a lot of people say well, you know, if I was expecting to be vaccinated in November, December or February, then I must just expect that I'll be vaccinated in 2023. There is something critical about how people understand this target,” he said.

According to the latest available data, the department has vaccinated only 16.5% of the 1.3 million people over 60 years in Gauteng. In the North West, a province that is also in the throes of a third wave of infections, officials have only jabbed 28% of the 325,000 people they aimed to vaccinate by the end of the month.

“There is still a long way to go because the intention of reaching this number by the end of this month is impossible,” provincial health spokesperson, Tebogo Lekgethwane, said.

Given the low turnout of people over 60 at sites in Gauteng, the department was now calling on everyone who's eligible to just walk in and ask for a jab me.

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