The health ministry confirmed that South Africa its first vaccination milestone by successfully rolling out delivery of the early access Johnson & Johnson vaccine to healthcare workers through the Sisonke Programme.

The three-phase rollout strategy began with the most vulnerable in South Africa, and government’s target is to vaccinate 67% of the population by the end of 2021.

SA’s first COVID-19 vaccine milestone

The Sisonke Programme ‘outperforms targets’

National Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja confirmed that “63 648 patient-facing healthcare workers in the public and private sector have been vaccinated against COVID19”.

“The Sisonke Programme is outperforming original targets for the number of vaccines delivered in its first week and is set to continue this momentum in its second week as more sites come online”.

This follows after the second shipment of 80 000 single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines landed at O R Tambo International Airport on Saturday morning, 26 February 2021.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the second batch “comes as the majority of initial doses received two weeks ago have been administered to healthcare workers via the Sisonke Project.”

Rapid vaccine rollout

Maja explains that the “rapid rollout of the vaccine to healthcare workers is a critical first step in the three-phase national vaccination roll out plan”.

“In just under one week, the Sisonke Programme has set up 18 vaccination sites from scratch, developed and implemented complex logistics, trained additional vaccinators, set up an online electronic registration system and ensured the safe and timely vaccination of tens of thousands of healthcare workers”.

The targets were set out were based on best practice implementation of science with the data available. However, “real-life rollout has shown that demand from healthcare workers is in excess of original estimates”.

Therefore, the Department of Health appeals to frontline workers – who are demonstrating vaccine confidence – to “practice patience” while the team continues to scale up the vaccine roll-out programme.

“In order to ensure the quickest and most efficient rollout possible, the rollout will be adjusted so that the selection of new and additional vaccination sites will start early next week, ahead of schedule”

Maja explains that this “will occur in consultation with provinces and will seek to extend the programme outside major centres”.

Challenges remain

That said, the team behind the Sisonke Programme say they are “aware that there are pockets of challenge dispersed across the country”. They are working hard to “solve for these problems as efficiently as possible”.

“We will endeavour to ensure that all healthcare workers are vaccinated in a timeous and fair way, starting with patient-facing healthcare workers who are at the highest risk of contracting severe COVID-19 and therefore receiving priority status in this part of Phase 1”.

All healthcare workers are urged to make use of the government’s EVDS system to register and receive an electronic voucher prior to attending one of the vaccination sites. No voucher, no vaccination.


Presh JM Reporter

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