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South Africa risks destroying 100 000 vaccine doses by end-March due to slow uptake

The governments vaccine programme has slowed. picture: file

The governments vaccine programme has slowed. picture: file

Published Mar 6, 2022


About 100 000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine are at risk of being destroyed by the end of this month due to slow uptake by citizens, South African health authorities have said.

The country has recorded the most coronavirus infections and deaths on the African continent, however inoculations have slowed and the country has ample vaccine stocks of about 25 million doses.

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“There is a risk that just over 100 000 or so doses, which will expire by end of March ... may have to be discarded,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla told an online news conference on Friday.

“It will be a sad day if significant volumes of doses end up being discarded. We hope it will not reach that stage,” he said.

Phaahla said the department was trying to ramp up inoculations to save the vaccine doses from being discarded.

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South Africa has so far fully vaccinated around 43% of its 40 million adults.

South Africa’s vaccination campaign, using the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer vaccines, got off to a slow start due to difficulties securing early supplies, but more recently it has been dogged by hesitancy.

Last month the country changed its Covid-19 vaccination rules in an effort to encourage more people to get jabs.

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South Africa recorded 1 853 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, and two deaths. The Covid-19 positivity rate is 6.5%.

An additional 48 deaths were reported as part of an ongoing audit, increasing the confirmed death toll to 99 499.

Most new cases were recorded in Gauteng, which accounted for 35%, followed by the Western Cape with 23%.

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KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 20%, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State accounted for 5% each, and the North West 4%. Limpopo and the Northern Cape each accounted for 2%.

Gauteng recorded 650 new cases on Wednesday, the Western Cape 420 and KwaZulu-Natal 369.

The Northern Cape has the lowest number of new cases at 31.