People sit in line as they wait to register next to the Transvaco Covid-19 vaccine train at the Springs train station on the East Rand, after Transnet turned the train into a vaccination centre on rails to help the government speed up its vaccine rollout in remote communities. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
People sit in line as they wait to register next to the Transvaco Covid-19 vaccine train at the Springs train station on the East Rand, after Transnet turned the train into a vaccination centre on rails to help the government speed up its vaccine rollout in remote communities. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

PICS: Vaccine train aims to boost inoculation numbers in SA’s remote areas

By Reuters Time of article published Sep 2, 2021

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Sisipho Skweyiya

Johannesburg - At Springs train station in South Africa's biggest city Johannesburg, Simphiwe Dyantyi and her partner wait their turn to board. But they are not going anywhere, instead they are getting Covid-19 jabs inside a stationary train.

The initiative by state logistics firm Transnet is meant to bring vaccines closer to people and save them from travelling long distances as the government ramps up its Covid-19 vaccination drive.

From the Springs station, the Transvaco train will in the first week of September move to rural Eastern Cape province.

Once there, it will make stops in different places in the province, bringing relief to poor villagers who are often without basic health facilities. It will be stationed there until November.

A health worker talks to people as they wait to register next to the Transvaco Covid-19 vaccine train at the Springs train station on the East Rand. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Dyantyi, 32, said the train had saved her a trip to the next vaccination centre where queues have been long since the government made vaccinations available to all adults last month.

"We've been waiting for this moment for a very long time," she told Reuters after receiving her Johnson and Johnson jab.

"We work in industries where you need to be at work like all the time. So, it was very crucial for me to get this vaccine," said Dyantyi, a safety engineer at a local firm.

Dennis Malattji takes his Covid-19 vaccine while a health worker looks on inside the Transvaco vaccine train at the Springs train station on the East Rand. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

South Africa has been battered by three coronavirus waves, infecting at least 2 770 575 million people, killing 81 830 - by far the continent's worst toll - and pummelling an already struggling economy with lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The Health Department has vaccinated more than 12 million people after its campaign got off to a slow start due to bureaucratic hiccups and a failure to start early talks with pharmaceutical companies, among other challenges.

"We are basically bringing the vaccines to the people," Paballo Mokoena, the train manager said.

"So, it cuts down on patients having to travel long distances, wait in long queues and sometimes even be turned back because vaccines maybe finished, or they get to clinics or hospitals late."

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