Nurses in KwaZulu-Natal line up to get their Covid-19 vaccinations. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
Nurses in KwaZulu-Natal line up to get their Covid-19 vaccinations. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Government may miss vaccination target for 2021. Here’s why

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Feb 25, 2021

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Cape Town - South Africa’s plan of vaccinating 40 million people by the end of the year appears to have hit another snag.

So far, 41, 809 healthcare workers have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson doses since the rollout began a week ago.

The figure does not augur well for health experts and politicians. They say the rate at which the vaccines are administered is a “drop in the ocean” and will do little towards reaching the 40 million target set by the government.

Public health expert and BroadReach co-founder, Dr Ernest Darkoh, says that achieving herd immunity will be a massive logistical feat for South Africa. To achieve the goal, a lot of things would have to go right.

“Basic things need to be figured out as early as possible. We need to assess performance on an ongoing basis, to see how we are doing in achieving this goal. To achieve the 40 million target, about 182 000 single doses of Covid-19 vaccines need to be administered daily and for vaccines needing double doses, about 363 000 need to be administered daily for 8 hours each day for the next 220 days.”

Other than Israel no other country has come close to 150 000 jabs a day. Countries such as Canada, the UK and the US also faced challenges in the initial stages of their roll-out programmes, struggling to vaccinate even up to 50 000 a day.

Darkoh said: “Many of these vaccines have a preparation requirement, some have to be thawed for 2 hours before they can be administered. So, if we are planning to start vaccinations at 7am, then it means that someone has to come in at 5am to start preparing these vaccines. Most clinics don’t start at 5am.

“If we start later, it puts pressure on those administering these jabs and also increases the numbers we are supposed to be hitting, by 25%. These are the things we need to figure out quite quickly and early before we can even think about achieving that target,” he said.

While IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said that although there were many flaws in the roll-out strategy, the government deserved to be given “the benefit of the doubt”.

He cautioned that the flaws needed to be addressed urgently, before a bigger consignment of vaccines arrived.

Speaking on the government’s vaccine strategy on Tuesday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told members of Parliament: “We chose a strategy that was guided by science as we did not have the financial muscle to make unhedged bets. Our approach has paid off as we have been able to be nimble and precise around the tricky issue of the variant.”

The first batch of 80 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines were delivered on February 16, after study findings showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant found in the country.

The next batch of 80 000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines are set to arrive in the country this Saturday.

Meanwhile, a recent survey conducted by researchers at the University of Johannesburg and the Human Sciences Research Council has shown that two-thirds of South African adults would definitely or probably accept a vaccine if one were available, 15% stated they did not know, and 18% said they would not accept a vaccine.

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