Johannesburg, May 17 (PTI) South Africa has announced an ambitious plan to vaccinate by the end of June its five million citizens at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 in the second phase of its programme to combat the pandemic.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a national television broadcast on Sunday evening that the first phase had ended on Friday with 478,000 of the planned 500,000 healthcare workers receiving the jab.
'These (remaining) doses will not be used for Phase 2 or Phase 3, but they will be used by the Medical Research Council to conduct some important studies and programmes that will help us to understand how vaccines work for population groups such as people living with HIV, and pregnant and lactating mothers,' Mkhize said.
The second phase starting on Monday will see vulnerable people such as those over 60 and those with comorbidities receiving priority before the general public can get vaccinated in the next phase.
Mkhize said an overnight delivery of Pfizer vaccines on Sunday would bring the available doses in the country to just over 975,000.
'We will continue to vaccinate healthcare workers and complete the targeted 1.2 million healthcare workers in the coming week.
'We will also begin to vaccinate citizens 60 years and older who are most vulnerable of becoming ill or dying of COVID-19. Five million citizens are targeted to be completed by end of June, provided that the supply of vaccines flow as anticipated.' the minister said.
'By the end of June we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and two million doses of Johnson and Johnson once (they are) released (after approval by the Food and Drug Administration in the US),' he said.
Mkhize said vaccination would start on Monday at 87 sites across the country, 83 in the public sector and four in the private sector, all of which would be published for public information.
'We want to scale this up to just over 200 by the end of the week,' Mkhize said as he explained that the remaining healthcare workers and those over 60 had already started receiving SMSs to indicate where and when they should report for their vaccinations.
Electronic systems were set up a fortnight ago for people to register for vaccination.
'In all provinces, core teams are conducting robust registration drives and we are seeing that the numbers are already going up because these initiatives are making an impact on the community.
'To date, over 1.22 million senior citizens have registered,' Mkhize said, adding that as the programme moves on, it might be possible for senior citizens who have not been able to register to walk in and get vaccinated, but not at this stage.
The programme has been designed to avoid long queues, especially for senior citizens.
Over 7,000 residents living in 102 old age homes will be visited personally to receive their vaccinations by the end of May as part of the rollout plan.
The vaccination plans were announced soon after Premier David Makhura announced that South Africa's economic hub of Gauteng province was now officially in a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the first time in several weeks, South Africa recorded over 3,000 new coronavirus infections in a 24-hour period on Saturday.
The Department of Health said 3,221 cases were confirmed, raising the infection count to 1,605,252. There had also been 44 more coronavirus-related deaths during this period, bringing the death toll since the pandemic started to 55,012.
The recovery rate has dropped to 94.7 per cent, with 1,520,878 people recuperating so far. PTI FH CK CPS