DURBAN - NON-PROFIT health organisation Right to Care has set its sights on far-flung areas to ensure rural communities are not left out as the vaccination roll-out moves in earnest, amid the country bracing itself for a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The focus on rural people comes as KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala paid an inspection visit to vaccination sites in rural parts of the North Coast yesterday, before announcing the roll-out had taken off to a smooth start.
“Vaccination is going well here. We are grateful for the work that is being done under uMkhanyakude District municipality,” he said.
“We encourage people to register to get vaccinated. But we are also saying that even those who may not have been able to register, they will not be turned away at the sites, they will get vaccinated on the spot,” said Zikalala, who was at Mtubatuba and Hluhluwe sites.
Addressing the nation on Sunday, when he moved the country back to alert level 2 lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that the country could soon find itself swimming in the third wave.
“The provinces of Free State, Northern Cape, North West and Gauteng have reached the threshold of a third wave of infections. It may only be a matter of time before the whole country will have entered the third wave,” said Ramaphosa.
With South Africa targeting 41 million people for vaccination by March next year, the Right to Care body says it is deploying teams to vaccinate vulnerable people who live in “hard-to-reach” places in remote parts of the country.
Solely funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid), Right to Care said in light of the urgency to vaccinate - which is presented by the emergency of new variants - nobody should be left out, including people located in far-flung areas.
“We need to achieve herd or population immunity to break the chain of transmission as quickly as possible,” said Dr Ntombi Sigwebela, the chief of party for vaccinations in the organisation.
Right to Care was supporting the national Health Department in rolling out the vaccination programme across South Africa, said Sigwebela.
The organisation said it would be using its large-scale comprehensive HIV care and treatment and disaster medicine experience to roll-out the current “programme of unprecedented scale and complexity”.
“Reaching South Africans in far flung places has begun in some parts of the country, (through the use of) mobile teams and mobile pharmacies to ensure that the programme covers ‘the last mile’. These systems were developed during the Sisonke study for health-care workers using the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” she said.
“Right to Care set up vaccination sites in the remotest areas of the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. We went to places that many South Africans haven’t heard of to reach health-care workers who are on the front lines of Covid-19,” she said.
The organisation was able to vaccinate more than 43 000 health-care workers in the Eastern and Northern Cape during the Sisonke trial, Sigwebela said, and added that USAid’s funding of key elements of their response to the pandemic was enabling the drive to vaccinate all South Africans.
The organisation said vaccine distribution was complicated particularly outside of major centres.
“We are working with the National Department of Health and sharing the learnings so that other provinces also benefit from our experience. We implemented a few innovations to pilot mobile vaccination teams including developing mobile pharmacies.
“We use sophisticated geographic information system (GIS) technology to assess routes and plan the transportation of the vaccines from central to peripheral distribution sites. Our pharmacy teams use these maps to establish the best place to store and distribute the vaccines.”
The organisation said that everyone, including those citizens living outside cities, need to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS). A vaccination site is allocated based on the address provided and individuals would be alerted when a vaccination site is set up nearby.
People can register on the EVDS by selecting either online at https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za/ or WhatsApp line 0600 123 456 or SMS by dialling *134*832# or call the Covid-19 hotline 0800 029 999.