The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has called on the Health Department to open more vaccine sites and ensure that the entire system is more efficient.

SAMA says the coronavirus vaccination rollout programme for the elderly which started on Monday is long overdue.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the number of elderly people who were vaccinated at more than 80 sites nationwide on the first day will be announced later on Tuesday.

The department says vaccinations at some sites were disrupted by Eskom’s load shedding.

SAMA chairperson, Dr Angelique Coetzee says, “We also acknowledge the multitude of challenges in our specific settings that we are having. But most disappointing after six months of planning is the tiny number of sites we have started off and then most concerning is the lack of computerised record keeping. How hard would it be to implement in every site especially in the public sector, just one or two laptops. We hope that the Department of Health and its partners will be able to rapidly up scale this vaccine administration.”

SAMA calls for more vaccination sites

South Africa targets five million elderly people in Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

South Africa launched Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout on Monday with the aim of inoculating five million citizens aged over 60 by the end of June, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

“This is provided that the supply of vaccines flows as anticipated. By the end of June we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and 2 million doses from Johnson & Johnson,” Mkhize said during a webinar on Sunday.

Mkhize said that more than 325 000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine would arrive at midnight on Sunday, bringing the total of Pfizer doses up to 975 780.

So far South Africa has ordered enough COVID-19 vaccines for 46 million of its 60 million population.

The Health Minister said the country was still awaiting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be released by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after its administration was paused and then restarted two weeks later due to concerns over blood clots.

South Africa is Africa’s worst-hit country in terms of infections and fatalities, with over 55 000 deaths and more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Fears of a third wave of the coronavirus have surfaced in recent weeks following the detection of two new variants in the country originating from India and the United Kingdom, as well as the slow rollout of vaccines.

Mkhize said just under 480 000 healthcare workers had been vaccinated in the first phase, out of a target of 1.2 million.

Vaccination of the elderly gets off to a slow start