Western Cape 'scaling down' vaccine rollout amid wait for next J&J batch
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Cape Town - The Western Cape Health Department said due to the wait until the delivery of the next Covid-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccine batch, they will be scaling down rollout while administering the province’s remaining allocation of these vaccines.
The province said vaccination of health-care workers, as part of Phase 1 of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Sisonke implementation study, is rapidly moving into the next phase – where non-patient facing but essential health-care workers will be receiving the vaccines.
The province added it was still preparing for the start of Phase 2 of the programme in May.
To date, the Western Cape has received 54 068 vaccines, as part of three tranches of deliveries through the Sisonke programme and have vaccinated 49 600 health-care workers in the province.
“Over the next few days, before and after the Easter weekend, our vaccinators will be administering the remaining allocation of these vaccines, whereafter the next consignment will be to ensure we reach the remaining health-care workers,” the health department said.
“As part of the Sisonke programme we are expecting to receive a further 15% or 30 000 doses vaccines, as part of the 200 000 allocated for the country, in the next delivery which is scheduled for the weekend of 11 April.
“With this confirmation of doses, it is estimated that the Western Cape will be able to cover 50% of health-care workers through this study.”
The department said because it was not expecting any vaccines over the Easter weekend, “several of the current vaccination sites will be scaling down – once they have administered their allocation and await the next delivery”.
“This will in turn result in fewer numbers of vaccines administered per site for a few days, but this will be increased as we get the next delivery after the Easter weekend.”
The “scaling down” will, however, be temporary as head of department Dr Keith Cloete said at a weekly digital press conference this morning, that once the next batch arrived the province would be “scaling up” roll-out efforts.
Cloete said that they expect to breach the 50 000 mark today, Thursday, of those involved in the Sisonke trial.
He added that they are expecting larger quantities of the Pfizer and J&J vaccines to arrive from April going into May and thereafter beginning Phase 2.
DA MPL Mireille Wenger, who is chairperson of the Covid-19 Oversight Committee in the Western Cape legislature, lashed out over the “leftover” vaccine batches the country has been receiving.
“We were informed by the provincial health department that these vaccines come in batches from leftovers from other clinical trials around the world. This is why receipt of vaccines remains so slow.
“The report from the provincial department of health shows that only 50% of the Western Cape’s health-care workers are set to be vaccinated through the Sisonke programme. And although we are hopeful to receive Pfizer vaccines by early April, this misses the national deadline for vaccination of healthcare workers,” Wenger said.
The Sisonke study will conclude at the end of April, said Prof Glenda Gray, co-principal investigator of the study.
The study was launched on February 17 to help speed up the plan, while an application for commercial use of the J&J shot was being finalised.
The study aims to vaccinate half a million health-care workers, out of an estimated 1.5 million in South Africa, by the end of April, says Gray, with the national vaccine roll-out programme expected to pick up where Sisonke leaves off.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that the study team has done to execute this. The teams have been working 24/7. We hope to conclude the Sisonke 3b open study by the end of April when the last 200 000 doses come in on the 10th of April,” she said.
Meanwhile in the Western Cape, the training of vaccinators continues with 4 436 vaccinators having already registered and 2 326 have completed the training.
The health department added it was regularly looking at ways to increase the pool of vaccinators and was currently exploring the possibility of getting on-board student vaccinators to supplement capacity at sites, “which will be required as we move into the next phases of the vaccination programme”.
*Additional reporting by Rudolph Nkgadima.