Covid-19: Zweli Mkhize wants healthcare worker vaccinations done by the end of the week

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  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize wants all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of this week.
  • He said the public should not be concerned about a possible three-month gap between the first and second Pfizer doses.
  • The minister added that the elderly will be accommodated even if they don't have access to the Electronic Vaccination Data System.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize wants all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of the week, he said on Tuesday.

"Let's push and make sure our health workers are protected before [infection] numbers start rising," the minister said when he addressed journalists and stakeholders at the Royal Show Grounds vaccination site in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

He sang healthcare workers' praises: "They carried this country and were carrying the risk but still made sure our people are safe from Covid-19. We want them to feel bolder and stronger when they go out."

READ | 4 200 vaccines to be distributed at 87 sites on Day 1 of Phase 2 vaccination rollout

Mkhize also said the public shouldn't be concerned about a long gap between the first and second shots of the double-dose Pfizer vaccines.

"Between now and the end of June, we should have received close to six million vaccines. We are trying to get more than that, but because of some of the delays, we are getting our delivery scheduled for later in the year.

"We want our people to be very patient because we might want to delay the second dose by up to three months."

"... we want to make sure we reach as many people as possible and then build up immunity because evidence coming from the UK has shown there is better immunity...if someone gets a second dose after three months."

Challenges

Load shedding was among the challenges experienced on the first day of vaccinations.

"It did not affect the cold chain because we already prepared alternative and contingency arrangements so that there is no chance that the cold chain can be broken. The load shedding ... disabled the system and made the reception a bit slower and we had to use a lot of manual records for that but it did not delay our Electronic Vaccination Data System [EVDS]."

READ | Covid-19: Each jab will cost between R280 and R308

He said they recorded well over 10 000 vaccinations and the number could increase.

"Yesterday on the system, we recorded more than 11 000 people, but we are still awaiting the reconciliation of all the manually counted numbers."

Protests also affected vaccination sites.  

"In Bloemfontein they had to close down the site. We hope alternatives will be worked on so we can continue to vaccinate people despite the disruptions," Mkhize said.

He added that health workers were becoming accustomed to mixing vaccine doses.  

"We also noticed a slow start because [health workers] are still getting used to this [vaccinations]. Some were even indicating that the mixing got them in a bit of difficulty...We are working on not losing any vaccines. This site has not lost any at all."

The elderly in rural areas

Mkhize added that the EVDS was meant to record who was vaccinated and it would not exclude the elderly.

"The electronic vaccine data system does not exclude people from being vaccinated, but is a way of recording who has been vaccinated. But they can register beforehand so we schedule their appointment, [which means] they don't spend a long time in the queue."

The minister added that those who have accessibility issues were also accommodated.

"People with no access, poor [internet] connectivity or no skill to deal with cellphones and register from a distance will have an opportunity to be registered, if not by their own families then by the community health workers visiting them. We will also be encouraging them to reach out to their councillors to give them guidance and support."

Mkhize added: "Apart from that, when we announce the site where the vaccination will take place, they can go there and just walk in and be registered on entry and they will be vaccinated."

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