The initiative is to increase numbers of vaccinations.
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The national department of health is on a campaign trail to ensure more elderly people make use of the free public transport to vaccination sites initiative for people aged 50 and above after a slow start on Tuesday. 

The department said the initiative was in response to the high number of older persons who are not vaccinated, as they are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.The initiative, which is a pilot project of the department of health in collaboration with members of civil society, started on Tuesday in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.  

Health department director of media liaison Foster Mohale told Sowetan that they are intensifying their efforts to make sure older people make use of the free vaccination transport. 

"We have made announcements on radio, social media and are within the assigned areas distributing flyers. Posters have also been mounted on key strategic places. Since the start of the vaccination rollout programme, more than 50% of people over the age of 60 years have been vaccinated.

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"The department has significantly increased access to the vaccine by increasing the number of sites from 200 at the start to almost 2,500 public and private vaccination sites. Despite these efforts, the department remains concerned that many older persons who are at a higher risk of severe disease and death from Covid-19 remain unvaccinated. Many of them live with comorbidities and face greater risk of illness or death in the event that they contract Covid-19," said Mohale. 

The project has targeted areas which are pick-up points where people living in the area can use the free transportation to go to a vaccination site. In Gauteng, there are pick-up spots in Alexandra, Tembisa, Ivory Park and Olievenhoutbosch.

The project runs from August 24 to September 4.

Mohale said that the numbers of the first day are still to be consolidated “The first day was slow. It is too early to state which pick-up area in Gauteng has more people using it as the pilot project started on Tuesday." 

On Thursday Sowetan visited several pick-up spots in Alexandra. Sowetan spoke to volunteers of the project distributing flyers to  members of the community. The volunteers told Sowetan of the reluctance of residents to use the free transport.

“At the Alexandra police station [one of the pick-up spots] we found a lot of people who were not interested in using the free transport because they said they are sceptical to take the vaccine and some said there are vaccination [sites] in their area close to their homes so there is no need to use the transport,” said one volunteer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One Alexandra resident, Fletcher Mahenge, 25, used the free transport which was going to a vaccination site on Rivonia Road in Sandton.

“I saw the poster at one of the schools and went to the Quantum [minibus] at the school to find out more information. I am happy that I managed to get a platform to help me get vaccinated. I didn’t know where to go to find out about vaccination,” said Mahenge.

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