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Elderly scramble to get to vaccination points after receiving late night SMSes

Published May 18, 2021


SENIOR citizens have been left scrambling to get to vaccination points after receiving SMS notifications from the Department of Health to arrive at vaccination points in less than 12 hours.

As South African senior citizens are now eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, their family members are raising concerns over the government's short notice when providing appointment information.

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As vaccination centres are currently not allowing walk-ins, a confirmation SMS forms the final and critical step of the registration process.

“My mom received an SMS at 10pm asking her to be at a vaccination point in Cape Town at 8am the following day. That’s less than 12 hours notice. My mom does not drive so she is reliant on someone getting her there. What happens to those seniors who don't have the luxury of making arrangements to get to the vaccination site?” said a Cape Town resident.

In another case, after receiving notice to report to a vaccination site, an elderly person was told, on arrival, that there will be a delay because the vaccines had not arrived at the site yet.

Another resident who expressed her dissatisfaction about the process said: “My mom got the SMS last night at 11pm to go today at 2pm. No option to make an appointment on the SMS. She is just told to go between 2pm and 4pm. We are excited and nervous. Let's just hope they don't make the elderly stand in a long queue.”

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the programme has been designed to avoid long queues and that is why it is important that as many people as possible register beforehand, and follow the instructions which they receive by SMS.

“Even if they don't register we will still vaccinate them. So the point we are making is that the vaccine registration helps us to record who has been vaccinated but we recommend that as many people as possible register beforehand,” he said.

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Meanwhile, some elderly citizens say they are still waiting to receive the SMS despite registering.

“I am seeing people my age being vaccinated and I am wondering when will we be vaccinated. I also want to be vaccinated and be protected,” Sithole Mokoena told IOL.

There are five ways to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS):

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  • Online at
  • Using the WhatsApp line 0600 123456.
  • Via SMS by dialling *134*832#.
  • Call the Covid-19 hotline 0800 029 999.
  • Citizens can also use the new QR by simply scanning and following the prompts.

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