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We have capacity to distribute in the province, assures MEC for Health in Gauteng- Dr Mokgethi, as vaccination makes its way to SA

That’s the assurance of Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize as the country awaits over 1m doses of vaccination from India, although questions have been asked on the strategy and distribution thereof.

According to Dr Mkhize, the first batch will leave Serum Institute of India (SII) — India on January 31, via Dubai before landing at the OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

The vaccine that will arrive on Monday is the Aztra Zeneca vaccine — a product called “COVISHIELD”.

Mkhize said that various processes will be done, which would take 10-14 days, after which “we will be ready to distribute to all provinces”.

The minister said that the vaccines will have to go through a legally mandated quarantine period once they arrive in the country, and through quality assurance and reconciliation processes — the latter of which involves checking how many arrived, if any were broken, or how many had to be sent back.

“These are all necessary for the safe distribution of the vaccine. These processes will take a minimum of 10 days and maximum of 14 days,” said Mkhize.

He said that this was the first step in achieving herd, or population, immunity, which he said would ideally be achieved “by the time we get towards the end of the year”.

Mkhize said the Treasury had put its full weight behind securing the vaccine, saying it had “ensured no undue delays”, had granted all procurement deviations that the health ministry had requested and had “committed to financing additional orders”. He added that, from a regulatory standpoint, “we are cleared to move ahead with the rollout of the vaccine and the mass inoculation campaign”, he told a panel of health experts virtually on Wednesday evening.

He said that getting the first batch of vaccines in less than a year since the first case “is a massive achievement of unprecedented proportions”.

The minister also indicated the vaccination will be inoculated to frontline workers, as a priority.

He praised the country’s “fearless compatriots” — those people who had stepped up and taken part in vaccine trials across SA.

“Today I want to pay tribute to those fearless compatriots who volunteered to participate in the trials, doing so without knowing whether they were getting the vaccine or placebo. Let us not forget these heroes who defied all anxieties and chose to be of service for the greater cause.

“It’s only through human trials that you can truly establish the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. They were those humans. We thank them for their noble contribution that has brought us to where we are today,” he said.

No tracker or anything untoward would be injected in the body of anyone, assured the panel, following unconfirmed reports that the vaccine might be used for other means than to help contain the pandemic.

What we know for now is, it will be made available to everyone for free although the question of distribution to over 45m or so population still lingers.

Meanwhile, the Gauteng Health Department said it planned to start rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to over 10.72m of its citizens.

With the plane expected to land next Monday from India with vaccines, the department will only be able to distribute the vaccination couple of days after instead of the initial Monday, as mentioned by health minister Dr Mkhize.

The vaccines will be handed out according to the need in each province.

The first phase is for health-care practitioners and is divided into categories from most important:

  1. health-care workers who work with aerosol-generating procedures (those intubating patients);
  2. those in direct contact with Covid-19 patients;
  3. those in contact with patients suspected of or known to have Covid-19; and
  4. health professionals not in contact with Covid-19 patients.

The second phase has five categories:

  1. front-line workers including teachers, military and police;
  2. people in groups such as prisons, shelters and so on;
  3. people over 60 years;
  4. people over 18 years with comorbidities; and
  5. those over the age of 18.

“We have the infrastructure for one vaccinator to deliver vaccines for 40 people a day,” says Head of medical supplies, Dumisani Malele.

The MEC of health in GP Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi ’says people must go to hospital if they are sick after contracting the coronavirus.

“I appeal to the people in Gauteng: don’t stay at home. Come to hospital immediately because if you are late, we have a challenge. We have capacity and we have the experts,” she said.

Image (Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi, GP MEC for Health says they have capacity to deliver on vaccinations in the province).

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