'It's important to give this country a fighting chance': Phase 2 of Covid-19 vaccinations starts

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  • The vaccination of people aged 60 and older started in Gauteng and other provinces.
  • Healthcare worker vaccinations are continuing alongside vaccinations of people in the 60+ group 
  • The health minister said the country was not experiencing a third wave of infections yet but that the increase in cases was worrying.

For people like Maria Zukani, the chance to get the Covid-19 vaccine gives hope that life will eventually be normal again.

Zukani, 66, of Munsieville on Gauteng's West Rand, was one of the first people to be inoculated as the country started Phase 2 of the Covid-19 vaccination drive on Monday morning.

She arrived at Munsieville Care for the Aged at 07:30 and was vaccinated by 09:30.

READ | Questions about stability of Covid-19 platform on Day 1 of second phase of vaccinations

"I am very happy. We have been staying at home and washing hands.

"I decided to take the vaccine because I have a lot of illnesses. This might help me."

On Monday morning, the country opened 87 vaccination sites. The number is expected to increase to 200 by the end of the week.

People aged 60 and above are receiving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. After vaccination, they are placed in a waiting area for about 20 minutes where they are monitored for side effects. 

Pule Mmuso, chief director of the West Rand health district, said registration started two weeks ago.

Maria Zukani, 66, hopes the Covid-19 vaccine means
Maria Zukani was one of the first elderly people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

The site registered 880 people -and about 300 of them don't live at the facility. By 10:30, 20 people were vaccinated.

READ | Who is Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong and why is he giving SA R3bn to help produce vaccines?

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the department was working with the South African Social Security Agency in an effort to reach as many people as possible who fall into the 60+ category. He added that the department would also use places of worship to try to reach them. 

Done

He said while they wanted people to register online, they would not be turned back from sites if they showed up without having done so.

For those who are unable to come to the vaccination sites, home-based visits will be conducted.

"We know that we would have loved to have the vaccines earlier but it wasn't possible. Now it's here and we have to push to reach our targets."

He said while the country was not experiencing a third wave of infections yet, the rise in positive cases was worrying. Only two provinces - Gauteng and the Free State - are experiencing a third wave.

On Sunday, the country recorded 2 585 new cases. 

"Technically, we are not in a third wave. We will get to the third wave at different times. We need to make sure we reduce infections. Vaccines will help but it's still important for people to follow non-pharmaceutical interventions."

Mkhize said while people were supposed to receive the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine after three weeks, the department was considering extending the time period beyond that.

"There is research coming out, showing that if you get the second dose after three months, your immunity is stronger. If we do that, we can get a lot more people vaccinated. We can have more people with the one dose of the vaccine until we can secure more vaccines."

Vaccinate for your country 

During a press briefing on Sunday, Mkhize said the department would make it known when well-known people get the jab to reduce rates of hesitancy. 

Orlando Pirates chairperson Dr Irvin Khoza was one of the people who were vaccinated on Monday.

vaccine
Orlando Pirates boss Irvin Khoza was vaccinated at Munsieville Care for the Aged.

"Today I am here to say, you must vaccinate. I trust this vaccine and have no side effects. There is no other option available to anybody. It's important to give this country a fighting chance. For this country to stabilise quicker, we have to vaccinate," Khoza said.

Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Caroline Nicholls said: "I'm one of the most privileged  people to get vaccinated. It's an absolute necessity for us to have normal lives. I want to thank everyone who made this possible. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Not for yourself  but for your family, your community and country."

Gauteng's target is to vaccinate 10.4 million people.

Premier David Makhura said healthcare worker vaccinations would continue alongside vaccinations of those aged 60 and older. This, after the Sisonke Johnson and Johnson study that targeted healthcare workers ended last week. 

"This work is extremely important. I want to assure them that we are going to continue vaccinating healthcare workers alongside the 60s group. We can't leave them not vaccinated."  

He added that the vaccination drive would only be a success if all the people who want the vaccine were inoculated.

"I will not be relieved until we have covered the number of people who need the vaccine."

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