More than 47,000 COVID vaccine doses lost to looting in KZN, Gauteng - Kubayi

During the deadly riots last week, looters vandalised 120 pharmacies where vaccines were stored, although most of the public sector sites were not affected.

A vaccinator preparing the COVID-19 vaccine. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi said that the country had lost more than 47,000 vaccine doses due to the looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

During the deadly riots last week, looters vandalised 120 pharmacies where vaccines were stored, although most of the public sector sites were not affected.

The minister said that the riots had had an impact not only on the vaccine programme but also on the entire health system.

She said that the disruptions had put many lives at risk.

Kubayi said that indications suggested that South Africa had passed the peak of the third wave but her department was concerned that the recent riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng could lead to another surge in COVID-19 numbers.

"The indications are that we have passed the peak of the third wave and the overall number of cases have started to decline. However, we are cautious and extremely worried because of the many gatherings that we saw during the unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal may lead to another surge in numbers."

The department said that so far 6 million people had been vaccinated but the fatal criminal spree had disrupted the vaccine programme, with 120 private pharmacies vandalised.

The minister said that many of those arrested during the unrest had tested positive for the virus while in custody.

"We'll continue to watch the situation closely and that we need to be able to screen these communities and that we test in these communities. I appeal to those that were in those gatherings to try and ensure that they go to the nearest health facility should they feel that they have symptoms."

Kubayi said that government was stepping up its COVID-19 vaccine programme over weekends, with 1,500 volunteers helping out.

Currently, an average of 250,000 people per day was being vaccinated at the various sites in the country but the aim was to increase the number to 300,000 per day by the end of the month.

Government is working with the private sector through "business for SA" to take the vaccines to communities with bulk vaccination programmes.

The minister said that more people would now be able to get jabbed over weekends.

"Through this collaboration, we have also been able to bring into the vaccine programme 1,500 volunteers, who include doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, to help us vaccinate on weekends at various sites across all nine provinces. Out of the things that we've learned from dealing with COVID-19 is to be able to work together as South Africans."

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