Western Cape to start Covid-19 vaccination in 10 days

04 February 2021 - 21:47
By sipokazi fokazi AND Sipokazi Fokazi
February 15 is D-Day for Western Cape health-care workers to start getting their  Covid-19 jabs.
Image: REUTERS/Abdelaziz Boumzar February 15 is D-Day for Western Cape health-care workers to start getting their Covid-19 jabs.

It's official: the Western Cape will start its vaccination programme on February 15.

On Thursday, the head of health in the province, Keith Cloete, said the Western Cape was ready to roll out the programme which would see 138,000 front line health-care workers vaccinated during the first phase.

So far, almost 2,000 vaccinators, mostly health-care workers, have been trained to work at the more than 400 vaccination sites which had already been identified. The training focused on the handling of Covid-19 vaccines, storage and data management.

Addressing the media during premier Alan Winde’s weekly digital conference, Cloete said the province would this week be getting 93 vaccine-friendly fridges in preparation for the arrival of the vaccine stock next week. Generators, including portable generators, had been assessed and are on standby in case of power outages.

The vaccines will be kept at the province’s central depot before distribution to the vaccination sites, which included, among others, public hospitals and Western Province Blood Transfusion Services. There are now 378 public sector facilities and 41 private facilities where vaccination will take place.

Law-enforcement agencies were being briefed to safeguard the vaccines during distribution.

The vaccines will be rolled out in three phases, starting with health-care workers who are on the front line. The aim of the programme is to ensure that the country eventually achieves herd immunity that will prevent severe illness and death, reduce transmission, protect the health-care system and thereby finally defeat the pandemic.

“Without a vaccine, there is a risk that we will continue to have multiple outbreaks or waves of the virus that would result in the loss of many more lives and jobs. We cannot afford extended and ongoing lockdowns and the Covid-19 vaccine provides us with a safe and effective route back to living our lives more normally. It is a reason for all of us to have hope.”

The national health department has confirmed that the Western Cape will receive 35,000 first doses for public sector health-care workers, and 58,584 first doses for private sector health-care workers, including hospitals, specialists, GPs, pathologists, radiographers, pharmacists, allied health workers, dentists, and others.

Additional allocations were also being worked out for other front-line workers, including those who were outsourced, students, undertakers and traditional healers.

Both Cloete and Winde said they will not take the vaccines until all front-line health-care workers had been inoculated.

Winde said: “I've always said that I will take the vaccine, but I will also want to say that the person who needs the vaccine most is the front-line health-care worker. So there is no way that I’m going to step in front to get a vaccine. I’ll stand right next to that worker, especially when we know that in the first round there will not be sufficient vaccines to actually vaccinate our full health-care worker front line. Absolutely, I need to be at the back of that queue.”

Cloete said he would also be taking this position.

“Front-line health-care workers must be the first in line. As a non-patient-facing health-care worker in the health department I will also not be taking the vaccine unless front-line health-care workers have all had an opportunity to take the vaccine, but we will be there to support the process,” he said.

In phase 2, the Western Cape anticipates having to vaccinate up to two million residents who meet the following criteria: essential workers, people in congregate settings and vulnerable groups, including people over 60 and anyone older than 18 with high-risk comorbidities.

In phase 3, the aim is to vaccinate a further 2.9-million residents, with anyone older than 18 qualifying.

Winde said he had held discussions with finance and economic opportunities MEC David Maynier as to how the province would fund any additional vaccines procured by the province.

“He has indicated that the provincial government has multiple sources of revenue available, including an equitable share of nationally raised revenues, conditional grants from national government, own revenue sources and provincial reserves, but reprioritisation within existing baselines is also likely to be required

“Funding will be made available for our vaccination programme, including procurement, as it develops. He will announce further details when he tables the provincial budget on March 10.

“A successful vaccination programme is our budget priority. The cost of not procuring sufficient vaccines to achieve herd immunity, for the country and for the province, is simply too great for us not to consider contingencies for procurement,” said Winde.