While the Eastern Cape government says it is sticking to its plans to vaccinate 3.7 million people in nine months, the national Health Department has refused to comment on the province’s plans, and would not confirm if it endorses it.
The task to vaccinate 67% of the population of the Eastern Cape, will be carried out by 500 healthcare workers, said provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo on Thursday.
The targeted population excludes people below the ages of 18 years, added Kupelo.
“The department has developed a comprehensive plan to reach all health workers in the first phase, then the essential workers in the second phase and other at-risk populations older than 18 years over a 9 months period.
“The plan includes stakeholders such as public and private sector with their roles in the implementation of the plan.
“The government is setting up the governance structure and coordination mechanisms to ensure successful implementation of this important public health programme,” said Kupelo.
“At this stage the department is forecasting to have over 500 vaccinators to carry out this task,” added Kupelo.
But national Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja declined to answer our detailed questions about the Eastern Cape plans regarding its vaccination programme.
Maja said: “Please refer these questions to the Eastern Cape. Most of the process is still [a] work in progress.”
The province is one of the country’s hotspot provinces with active cases standing at 7,018, while the death toll stands at 9,283.
Asked about the date for the start of the rolling out of the vaccination programme, Kupelo said: “The date will be communicated in due course.”
Kupelo confirmed that the provincial government was expecting to receive the AstraZeneca Oxford University vaccine.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced earlier this week that the country has secured 20 million vaccine doses to combat the coronavirus, which are to be delivered ‘mainly’ in the first half of the year.
The government last week announced it had struck a deal for an initial 1.5 million doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford from The Serum Institute of India Ltd, with first shipments set to arrive this month.
Kupelo said the Eastern Cape will receive its allocation from the national central distribution centre.
People will be vaccinated in three phases with phase one targeting 200 000 healthcare workers.
Eastern Cape provincial government spokesperson Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha had earlier this week told News24 that the second phase will target 1.5 million people.
He said this includes one million essential workers such as police, bank workers, shop workers, petrol attendants, and anyone whose service deals with members of the public.
This will be followed by the vaccination of 300,0000 people in congregated settings, 200,000 people over the age of 18 living with comorbidities, and conclude with 200,000 persons over the age of 18.