First she was told the vaccines were frozen and she would not be allowed in. She was then told to return to the vaccination site the following day.
Then, on Thursday, she did her screening, only to be told that there was no vaccine and she should return the following day.
This is how an elderly woman in East London in the Eastern Cape, who asked to be identified only as Hazel, described her ordeal when she and others went to the Frere Hospital vaccination site on Wednesday.
“So, for two days, I went to the Frere Hospital and came back without being vaccinated. I am working in old age homes and desperately needed that vaccine.
“I interact with people all the time and I need this vaccine. I also have various underlying conditions, which puts me at great risk. I will go back again on Monday because I need it desperately,” said the 68-year-old.
Jane Cowley, the DA’s provincial spokesperson on health, said the two most significant threats to the success of the vaccine roll-out in the Eastern Cape were shortages of vaccines and the limited number of vaccinators.
According to Cowley, facility managers at several vaccine sites had already experienced shortages of the vaccines and have had to request vaccines from other facilities and even other provinces.
“A break in supply could negatively impact the roll-out, especially for those travelling long distances to vaccination sites. But by far the worst threat is the advent of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Sizwe Kupelo, the provincial health spokesperson, said they had vaccinated 18 000 elderly people by Friday.
“People are very eager to take the vaccine and the process has been running smoothly. We used all the 16 000 doses that were allocated to the province by Thursday. National government had to give us an additional 9 000 vaccines which we are still busy with,” said Kupelo.
A vaccine voucher and a long wait at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto almost derailed an attempt by an elderly man from Kempton Park on the East Rand to get his jab.
Sydwell Phelephele (60) told City Press that he arrived at the vaccination site at 5am on Monday. However, after waiting for more than three hours, he was told he would have to return home without the injection.
He was in a group of senior citizens who were left frustrated as they were told that they would have to re-register to be inoculated at the Soweto hospital.
Phelephele criticised the disarray, saying there was a “lack of proper planning by those responsible. I have been here since 5am and the reason for that was to avoid long queues by being one of the first people here.”
He said he had received an SMS informing him that he should report to the vaccination site on Friday, May 14. “I came here on Friday and I was told to return today [Monday]. When I got here this morning, I was the third person in the queue.
“We waited for about three hours before we were told that our vouchers are not valid because they reflected Friday’s date – when I was supposed to have visited the vaccination site – which I did but was turned away.”
For Phelephele, heading back home to the East Rand was not an option. “I cannot go back without getting the help I need. I have spent time and money to ensure that I get this vaccine because I need it.
“With the third wave coming, especially us older people with comorbidities, we need this vaccine,” Phelephele said.
His perseverance and patience paid off as he eventually received his vaccine – nine hours after arriving at the hospital.
Asked about the challenges experienced at the vaccination sites across Gauteng, provincial health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana told City Press that they had not faced any hurdles, “but [just] teething issues”.
“The vaccinations will continuously improve as the teams work on the system, especially with the shift from the Sisonke programme [during phase 1 targeting healthcare workers] to this phase 2 roll-out,” Kekana said.
The Northern Cape reported that 1 272 people had been vaccinated since this phase of the roll-out began on Monday.
Health department spokesperson Lebogang Majaha said this number included those 60 and older at old age homes in the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality.
Majaha said during phase 1, a total of 9 502 healthcare workers were vaccinated.
In North West, the phase 2 Covid-19 vaccination roll-out got off to a slow start, but Health MEC Madoda Sambatha said they were pleased with the steady daily increase of people being vaccinated.
The department said 31 221 people had been vaccinated by 6pm on Thursday, adding that the momentum had “picked up from the first day on which only 761 jabs were administered”.
Sambatha this week conducted oversight visits to the vaccination sites and old age homes in the province.
“The approach by the department to reach many of the elderly in old age homes is working. In all the homes I visited, I saw the enthusiasm and eagerness of the elderly wanting to be vaccinated ... this is encouraging and we believe we will be able to reach our target,” Sambatha said.
Provincial health spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said the phase 2 vaccination target for the elderly was 327 500.
Lekgethwane said the majority of the people in this category were in the Bojanala District Municipality, which covered Rustenburg and Brits, among other towns. He said “just over 60 000” people had been registered to be vaccinated by Friday.
The Limpopo health department reported that it had vaccinated more than 44 000 people this week.
Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said they started the phase 2 vaccination roll-out at six sites.
“A total of 44 855 people were vaccinated at these six sites,” Shikwambana said.
“Our plan is to increase the number of sites as we move to hospitals, clinics and other centres closer to communities in order to increase access.”
Shikwambana could not give time frames and the number of people the department intended to vaccinate when the sites are increased.
Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha and his wife Maggie were the first to be vaccinated at the launch of the roll-out at Mokopane Hospital.
Meanwhile, the Western Cape had vaccinated 2 495 people on Monday and Tuesday, of which 2 015 were older than 60.
Between May 17 and 20, the province had vaccinated 6 646 eligible people, including those at old age homes. Of this number, 5 918 were over the age of 60 and others were healthcare workers.
By Wednesday, the province’s Covid-19 death toll stood at 11 730.
It has recorded the second-highest Covid-19-related deaths, after the Eastern Cape with 11 628, according to the national department of health.
The province received 21 148 doses of the Covid-19 vaccines and 21 110 health workers have been vaccinated.
After this week’s phase 2 launch, 2 751 elderly people were inoculated, said provincial health spokesperson Dumisani Malamule.
A total of 8 629 people, including traditional healers who are categorised as healthcare workers, were vaccinated this week.
The province has 13 vaccination sites in the four regions of Ehlanzeni, Nkangala and Gert Sibande, Malamule said.
In the Free State, 2 887 elderly people had received their jabs by Friday, according to the department of health. At the launch of phase 2 on Monday, 262 people were vaccinated and the numbers were increasing daily.
In KZN a total of 56 695 vaccinations were administered of which 17 457 were health workers and 39 238 were people over 60.