Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba has assured the province’s citizens that her department was ready to roll-out the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine as soon as it was available.
Gomba said contrary to reports that the province would only be able to roll-out the vaccine in April, her department would embark on vaccination as soon as the vaccine for the virus was available.
She said stock was expected to arrive in the province in February with health workers who have valiantly been at the forefront of fighting the spread of Covid-19 being vaccinated first.
Gomba added that the provincial government was working around the clock to ensure the mass roll-out of the vaccine went ahead with little to no hurdles.
Part of the plan was training 571 vaccinators in and around the province.
“The target is to have a vaccination site within 5km radius of the community. This could be a fixed site or a mobile vaccination service point,” Gomba said.
Phase two will target essential service workers, including people older than 60 years of age.
During phase three, adults from 18 years old will be given the lifesaving vaccine.
The provincial government is targeting to vaccinate 3.7 million people in order to achieve herd immunisation.
This will be done between six to nine months.
Gomba said vaccinating healthcare workers first was a no brainer, as they are expected to continue to lead the fight against the deadly pandemic.
“We need our brave healthcare workers healthy so that they will continue doing the great work they have been doing since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in March last year,” she said.
The MEC said the province did not want to be caught napping when the vaccine is available.
However, the DA in the province is not as optimistic.
DA spokesperson on health in the Eastern Cape, Jane Cowley, said it was disappointing that there was still no date set for the roll-out of vaccines in the province, even though the first batches are set to arrive in the country on Monday [February 1].
“Every day delayed is a day lost to the ongoing impact of this dreaded virus.
“While the provincial health department has done extensive work in planning and preparing for the first phase of the vaccine roll-out, which will focus on frontline healthcare workers and those at highest risk, the further development of plans at district level are thwarted by a lack of information regarding which vaccines are being acquired as this will directly impact on storage protocols,” she said.
“We need to establish which vaccine variant is being sourced, what quantities are being allocated to the province and when these will arrive.”
Cowley said she was planning to write to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to urge him to provide sufficient information to the province, so that the teams at district level can ensure effective vaccine roll-out preparations.
“In a province that is vast and deeply rural in nature, these preparations are essential. In a capable state, the dissemination of regular and accurate information regarding such life and death issues as comprehensive vaccination against a killer virus is not only expected – it is the norm.
“We expect nothing less for the healthcare workers and the people of the Eastern Cape province, who deserve a life of value,” she said.
Eastern Cape provincial government spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha said the province was ready to inoculate its people.
“The executive council [Exco] of the province supported the updated plan submitted by the department of health for this programme [of vaccination]. The Exco calls on the people of the province to participate in the vaccination programme in their numbers in order for the province to achieve population immunity,” said Sicwetsha.
“As part of this plan, departmental task teams in all districts have been established, they are functional in all 8 districts of the province and have developed their vaccination programmes.”
He said online training of vaccinators has started and that a master facility list for the first phase of the vaccination programme had been submitted to the national department of health.
“Exco encourages people of the Eastern Cape province to continue adhering to the non-pharmaceutical interventions of wearing masks in public, keeping physical distance, washing or sanitising hands at all times,” said Sicwetsha.