OVER 200 000 elderly South Africans registered for vaccine roll-out within 24 hours
More than 200 000 South Africans over the age of 60 have registered to be vaccinated in the country’s phase two vaccination programme.
On Saturday spokesperson for the Department of Health, Popo Maja confirmed that by 2pm, 228 397 registrations had been captured on the department’s Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).
The portal was launched by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize on Friday evening who hailed it as a step in the right direction. Having gone live at 4pm as many as 126 000 people had been registered within the hour and by 9pm the number had increased to 153 746.
Yesterday the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre reported that Covid-19 deaths had surpassed the 3 million mark worldwide. As of Friday evening, South Africa’s death toll stood at 53 663 after 92 more people died from Covid-19 related complications in the country while the Western Cape recorded a single death.
Speaking to Weekend Argus Fezeka Kiva from Khayelitsha said registering her 65-year-old mother took no more than three minutes on the system and gave the family hope.
“It was a simple process that took very little time and effort. It was user-friendly and asked you what day of the week one would prefer to be vaccinated and what times during the day they are comfortable with so it is very convenient and accommodating,” she said.
“We are expecting an SMS a day after filling everything out to confirm the registration and then closer to the time of vaccination we can expect clarification over the vaccination site and dates and times. I was happy with the process overall, it is a step in the (right) direction.”
Concerns have been raised that the electronic system might be prejudiced against the elderly living in rural areas and cannot access the internet or smartphones that will enable them to register.
Mkhize on Friday said they were working on having a WhatsApp service set up for registration as well and would announce it as soon as the service becomes available for use.
Spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Health Shimoney Regter said they also have measures in place to assist those who may not have access to the internet to register on the EVDS portal.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have established networks with old-age homes and other stakeholders, including the City of Cape Town and our non-profit organisation partners who provide door-to-door services. These networks will help us reach vulnerable community members to ensure that no one is left behind when phase two gets underway,” she said.
While the government has suspended the roll-out of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine, it appears they are going ahead with distributing the Pfizer BioNTech's double-shot vaccine which is expected to arrive in time for the roll-out of the second phase of vaccinations.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced during a Parliamentary briefing that SA will be receiving a total of 15 million Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines.
The news comes as an Israeli study found that the coronavirus variant first discovered in SA breaks through the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
UWC virologist Professor Burtram Fielding said: “It is a very small study and if you think back to any of the other vaccines, all of them have reported escape variants, it’s not unique to Pfizer.”
“We need to keep in mind as well that pharmaceutical companies have always expected that this might happen and that is why some of them are working on booster shots that would target the variants, but it not that unexpected.
The way it’s tested, it’s laboratory tested - the majority of these studies, you will see it for the other vaccines as well.”
At least 325 260 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is expected in the country on May 3 with weekly deliveries of that vaccine then expected.
With the addition of these vaccines it’s now the Health Department’s goal to vaccinate 30 million South Africans and half of them will get the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
Fielding said none of these vaccines was 100 percent effective. “If you look at Johnson & Johnson, they were talking about 60 percent overall, and hospitalisations 80 percent effective and then almost 100 percent effective when it comes to preventing deaths.”
“No vaccine tested would be 100 % effective against any of the variants,” he added.
Sisonke medical investigators say this is not a cause for concern. The Sisonke study is a collaboration between the National Department of Health, SA Medical Research Council, Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, Caprisa, Janssen and Johnson & Johnson.
The open label single-dose Phase 3B vaccine clinical trial aims to monitor the effectiveness of the shot in preventing severe Covid-19.
Sisonke spokesperson Dumile Mlambo said they were working with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) and haematology experts to review study procedures, consent process and management of side-effects with a view to restarting vaccination.
“We provide information on safety monitoring, the rare clotting syndrome described in the US and advice for vaccine recipients and healthcare workers looking after them.
“To date 2.2% of healthcare workers who received the J&J vaccine as part of the Sisonke study reported side-effects or an adverse health event following vaccination.
“Most of the reported adverse events have been minor, local or systemic reactions,” said Mlambo, adding that the side-effects were an extremely rare complication affecting between 1 in 4 per million people who are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Sahpra spokesperson Yuven Gounden said the clear causal association between vaccination and blood clotting disorders was not yet confirmed and is still being investigated.
“Thromboembolic disease (blood clot) is not rare and may be associated with conditions such as immobility, pregnancy, surgery and malignancy to name a few.
“The risk of developing a blood clot from the Covid-19 vaccine is far outweighed by the benefit of being vaccinated,” said Gounden.
“The observed risk of blood clotting disorders in the vaccinated population is currently very rare and far less than that normally seen in the broader population.”
Another health expert, Dr Angelique Coetzee from the South African Medical Association concurred that blood clotting was very rare.
“One needs to weigh up the pros and cons of getting Covid-19 versus a very rare clotting disease,” Coetzee said.