The number of private vaccination sites will need to be ramped-up aggressively in the coming weeks if South Africa is to reach the daily inoculation tempo of 192 000 required by the start of June to position the country to consume the millions of vaccine doses that have been secured for its phased mass vaccine roll-out.
On May 17, South Africa kicked-off phase two of its campaign, which is geared towards vaccinating 5.4-million people over 60 before mid-winter, as well as those health workers not covered during the phase one Sisonke trial.
During the first four days of the roll-out, only 22 private sites were initially accredited to support the 155 registered public sites and it is estimated that the public sites administered about 75% of the initial 117 000 phase-two doses.
Business for South Africa’s Martin Kingston said on Friday that work was under way to ensure that there were sufficient sites to match the supply of vaccine, with large batches of between 325 000 and 636 000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses arriving weekly until the end of June and with a further three-million of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J’s) Janssen doses expected to follow in late May and June.
The delivery of the J&J vaccine has been delayed following a contamination incident at a manufacturing facility in Baltimore, in the US, which spoiled 15-million doses.
“To consume this supply over the coming six weeks would require a daily capacity of 192 000 vaccinations,” Kingston noted, adding that various private entities – including general practitioners, pharmacies, hospitals, medical schemes and large private employers – were committing resources to improve coverage.
The number of sites was due to increase to over 200 in the second week of the roll-out, while the registration and curation process for establishing both workplace and mass vaccination sites was said to be accelerating.
The process of accrediting sites, including sites at mining and industrial enterprises with in-house occupational health services, had been streamlined and thousands of applications had either been processed or were currently being processed.
Medscheme’s Lungi Nyathi who is helping to drive the process of operationalising workplace vaccination centres said that it was likely that these sites would be in a position to administer doses at a daily rate of 24 000 within the coming few weeks.
These sites will focus initially on vaccinating employees, such as mineworkers, but it is anticipated that they will also provide services for family members, as well as surrounding communities.
South Africa has secured 45-million vaccine doses until the end of 2021 and Kingston said there were sufficient doses available to accelerate the roll-out, particularly in light of a disappointingly low level of registration on the Electronic Vaccine Delivery System (EVDS).
As of May 21, only 1.6-million people over 60 had registered, a response that was likely attributable to the fact that many elderly South Africans lacked direct access to the technology needed to complete the EVDS registration.
Kingston said that talks were under way about opening EVDS registration to people over 40 in the not-too-distant future but emphasised that registration would not equate to immediate vaccination, as priority would be given to those over 60, who remained the most vulnerable to Covid-19.
Statistics show that, while those over 60 years account for only 9% of South Africa’s population, they had accounted for 36% of all Covid-related hospital admissions and 60% of reported deaths.
“They are the priority, particularly given the risk of a third wave,” Kingston said, reporting that up to 40 000 lives could be saved if this section of the population were to be vaccinated ahead of the winter season.