'Send us your excess vaccines': Western Cape asks countries for leftover shots

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Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Jaco Marais
  • Western Cape Premier Alan Winde appealed to countries who bought more vaccines than they can use to send them to South Africa.  
  • The provincial government has already sent out letters to 28 companies as it works towards securing its own stocks.   
  • In the meantime, it is pleading with residents to keep Easter gatherings, short, small and outdoors, and to avoid inter-provincial travel over the long weekend to help stave off a third wave of Covid-19. 

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde appealed to countries who bought more vaccines than they can use to send them to South Africa.  

"If you have excess, we are very interested," said Winde during his weekly digicon on the pandemic on Thursday.  

"We put our hand up," he added. 

The province had already been told by companies it approached independently to supplement the national Health Department's vaccination programme that they would only do business with the national government.  

READ | Lockdown: Here are all the rules for Easter weekend

However, they were pressing on with plans to get more vaccines as soon as they were allowed to, to supplement the Health Department's plans, which were proceeding slower than expected. 

Winde said countries that ordered more than they needed, were welcome to send them to South Africa.  

Debates have been raging over "vaccine apartheid" and "vaccine inequality" with some countries well stocked, and others not.  

A "vaccine hunters" movement had also emerged in the US for people searching for leftover shots.  

UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres also expressed concern over increasingly unequal access to vaccines.  

"We see many examples of vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding in wealthier countries - as well as continued side deals with manufacturers that undermine access for all," he said in remarks to mark a year since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared. 

READ | Confusion over invermectin, but regulator maintains it's not approved for Covid-19 treatment

The US government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dashboard on Wednesday stated that 195 581 725 doses had been distributed and 150 273 292 administered. 

In Canada, 7 155 769 doses were delivered, and 5 690 380 doses administered.

In the UK, the number of people vaccinated up to and including 30 March 2021 for their first dose stood at 30 905 538 and second dose at 4 108 536.

Winde said the provincial government had already sent out letters to 28 companies for when the department gives permission for everybody else to pitch in for additional vaccines.   

In the meantime, provincial authorities were pleading with residents to keep gatherings, short, small and outdoors to stave off a third wave of Covid-19 for as long as possible given the slow pace of vaccinations

Head of the Department of Health Dr Keith Cloete said cases in the province were as low as they were last October between the first and second wave with a 5.1% test positivity rate.  

Testing

However, there was a 16% increase week-on-week compared to the previous weeks in the Cape Metro, specifically due to private sector testing in some of Cape Town's sub-districts.  

There were small clusters observed - one involved three cases linked to Stellenbosch University, and another of five cases linked to a funeral in Tesselaarsdal.  

Cloete expressed concern over a tendency not to wear masks in Stellenbosch, and noted that the new cases were observed in the 18- to 30 age group in the Cape Winelands.

Samples taken from Breede Valley's Touws River waste treatment plant broke the streak of zero detections of traces of Covid-19 during early warning monitoring of the plants.  

Eight hundred and twenty four people are in hospital for Covid-19-linked treatment – a decline which has been tempered by the increase in trauma cases. At least half of the trauma cases were caused by inter-personal violence. 

There are 13 cases in the Brackengate Hospital, and the Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope had zero patients this week.  

The wards are officially closed for Covid-19, but ready to reopen if necessary.  

The total bed occupancy of Covid-related cases and possible Covid cases makes up 6% of acute general hospital capacity in the metro and rural hospitals.

The return of alcohol sales correlated with an increase in trauma cases to hospitals, with 50% of cases attributed to interpersonal violence, and 30% of the patients female.

A total of 48 640 healthcare workers were immunised in the Western Cape by Wednesday night out of a target of around 132 000.

"It is anticipated that we will be able to cover 50% of healthcare workers with the limited doses being received via the Sisonke Programme," said Cloete.

"We are preparing to scale up vaccination during April to complete Phase 1, with an expected arrival of Pfizer doses by early April 2021."

The Western Cape has received 54 068 doses so far.

More vaccines were expected in April and May. 

Phase II was expected to start in May and would be for essential services workers, people in congregate settings, people older than 60, people older than 18 with comorbidities. 

If all goes according to plan, the national target would eventually be to vaccinate between 250 000 and 300 000 people a day, with the Western Cape planning for between 30 000 and 40 000 of those. 

In the meantime, Cloete urged people to keep up sanitising, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds. 

"Keep it quiet, don't sing, don't share the air space with other people for a long period of time," he said.

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