The Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre has reiterated the sector’s concerns that people are not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The centre has encouraged the public to make use of government’s Vooma Vaccination Weekend, saying millions of COVID-19 jabs have not yet been administered.

The list of Vooma Vaccination sites can be accessed on the Health Department’s COVID-19 website.

Health journalist, Mia Malan, says government is aiming to vaccinate 500 000 people this weekend.

She says, “We have unused doses of you know about between 12 and 13 million at the moment. The problem is people are not coming out for vaccination and I think that is why we trying the Vooma weekend this weekend but the idea is to try and see if we can reach 500 00 this weekend.”

“Will we reach it? Well, we have fewer people coming to vaccinations now than we had at the previous Vooma weekend. So, we would have to put in a really, really big effort to get that done,” she adds.

Healthcare workers    

The centre has emphasised the importance of COVID-19 booster shots for high-risk individuals and healthcare workers.

The Sisonke 2 booster trial is set to kick off soon for healthcare workers, who only received one Johnson & Johnson jab at the start of South Africa’s vaccination programme.

Members of the public, who also received J&J jabs, will eventually receive their booster shot once the trial is underway.

Sisonke participants will receive an SMS notifying them of when they can get their jab.

Malan says, “There is a lot of research that shows that after six months, especially in the case of some vaccines, the immunity that you get starts to wane and that is applicable to people who are high-risk such as those who are 60 and over or those who have weak immune systems. If you have a job where you are more likely to get infected with COVID-19, such as a health worker and you work with patients, then it is a very good idea to get those people to take another dose to boost the immunity that they got from the first vaccines.”

Vaccination drive

Malan says this weekend’s vaccination drive aims to help inoculate thousands of South Africans.

“The President said some time ago that ideally 300 000 doses should be administered per day and we are way below that. For instance, yesterday (Tuesday) we had 126 000 doses and the day before that 100 000 doses. So we are pretty far behind and it is not a vaccine problem. We have a lot of vaccines in the country. I worked it out and we have around 12-13 million at the moment. The problem is that people are not coming out for vaccinations.”

VIDEO: Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla on Vooma Vaccination Campaign in eThekwini District Municipality in October: