The Department of Health says it will present an implementation plan for a COVID-19 Vaccine Passport to the National Coronavirus Command Council within ten days.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, however, says government’s decision to introduce the passport is not aimed at preventing people from accessing essential government services. He addressed the media in the Free State on Friday.

“In the next ten days, they will be ready to present to the NCCC the implementation plan or this vaccination certificate. Now I want to emphasise this certificate will not prevent people from accessing essential services, especially public services. What it is meant for is to say you can open up more economic, recreational activities,” says Phaahla.

Phaahla says government will not make vaccinations mandatory but says the COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate will ensure people can return to a semblance of their lives before COVID-19. He says just over 11 million adults in South Africa have had at least one jab and just over 15.5 million individual jabs have been administrated.

In the video below, Dr Phaahla says vaccination passports are not intended to punish people:

Phaahla says although the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to be administered to children younger than 18 years they are currently still focussing on people in high-risk categories like those older than 50 years.

“Once we have reached, hopefully, 50%, 60% of the high risk, we are hoping that somewhere by the end of October. Then we can keep on reviewing, somewhere down the line as also our stock of the vaccine improves, we might be able to sooner rather than later also go below 18,” says Phaahla.

‘Vaccinate before voting’

He urged South Africans to vaccinate before going to vote later this year.

Phaahla says the third wave of COVID-19 infections has been the longest yet but seems to be approaching its end.

He says the third wave has already lasted 120 days compared to the first and second waves, which lasted between 80 and 95 days. The overall reported new cases were down 35% compared to the previous seven days. Hospitalisations were also down 12% and positive tests were down by an average of 9%.

Phaahla says if the downward trend in infections continues, South Africans can look forward to a further relaxation of COVID-19 regulations.

“In terms of people who are fully vaccinated that is either one dose J&J or two doses of the Pfizer, we are sitting at 7.7 million, just a little under 20%. We still have a long way to go but I am encouraged and slowly but surely we are getting there. So we still need 16 to 17 million people to come forward. If that happens I can tell you, you will have a very good Christmas,” says Phaahla.

SA will struggle to protect citizens from mandatory vaccines: Expert