The Limpopo Department of Health resumed the COVID-19 vaccination program last week after it was halted last month for safety concerns. Twenty-five thousand healthcare workers were vaccinated before the suspension of the Johnson and Johnson Sisonke trials.

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba says the suspension delayed the process.

Ramathuba says the province aims to vaccinate 59 000 health workers and support staff in the frontlines.  She says the remaining health workers will be accommodated in the second vaccination phase, which will focus on the elderly citizens who are 60-years-old and above. She says they hope to also use the Pfizer vaccine.

“We are waiting for a share from the million vaccines from Johnson and Johnson that we have already received as a government, it will no longer be phase three B participation of clinical trial or Sisonke but it will be a rollout of the vaccine. If you remember, we are still currently busy with the clinical trial participation, we will not finish that one.”

Ramathuba monitored the vaccine rollout at the Letaba Hospital in Tzaneen. She says the temporary suspension of the Johnson and Johnson clinical trials slowed down the process to vaccinate health workers.

“We are trying to mop up the last time we checked we were at 25 000 health workers. The numbers have increased and will continue to increase, we are still a little bit far.  The suspension of the Johnson and Johnson also had a setback on us as a province because our health workers were also eagerly waiting to be vaccinated, but I can indicate to you that the whole of last year we have been busy.”

She has also monitored the registration of elderly citizens on the electronic vaccination data system.

“We are talking about senior citizens who are above sixty, the fact that we are a rural province which has got challenges in network, now talk about people in the villages, someone who is above 60, we have taken it upon ourselves as a department, we are going to assist them on how to register.”

About 21 000 people above the age of 60 have so far registered to be vaccinated in Limpopo.