South Africa ahead of schedule in first phase of COVID-19 vaccination



JOHANNESBURG: The first phase of COVID-19 vaccination programme in South Africa is ahead of schedule, health authorities said on Saturday after the second batch of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines landed in the country.

In the first week of the ‘Sisonke’ campaign to vaccinate healthcare workers as a priority, 6,648 patient-facing healthcare workers in the public and private sector were vaccinated, the Department of Health said in a statement.

“In just under one week, the Sisonke Programme has set up 18 vaccination sites, developed and implemented complex logistics, including cold chain management; distribution of vaccines and vial filling; trained additional vaccinators; set up an online electronic registration system and ensured the safe and timely vaccination of tens of thousands of healthcare workers,” it said.

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

” The Department also lauded healthcare workers who were showing increasing confidence in the vaccine.

“The demand for the early access of J&J vaccine continues to increase.

The Department of Health, the Sisonke Programme team and private sector partners are encouraged by the turnout of colleagues at vaccination sites.

“Real-life rollout has shown that demand from healthcare workers is in excess of original estimates.

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,” it said.

The Health Department conceded that were challenges in some areas of the country, where it was working to address these issues.

“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,” the Department said.

In a separate development, South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) Chief Executive Dr Boitumelo Semete confirmed on Friday that the regulator will begin evaluation of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine after an application for approval was received.

The Sputnik V vaccine has already been approved in 26 countries, with late-stage trial results published in the Lancet medical journal indicating that it gives 92 per cent protection against the coronavirus.

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