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Northern Cape ready for any eventuality during second phase of vaccine rollout, says health MEC

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
Northern Cape health MEC Maruping Lekwene said he was concerned about the increasing number of Covid-19 infections in the province. File photo.
Northern Cape health MEC Maruping Lekwene said he was concerned about the increasing number of Covid-19 infections in the province. File photo.
Image: REUTERS / Eduardo Munoz

Northern Cape health MEC Maruping Lekwene on Sunday said he was concerned about the increasing number of Covid-19 infections in the province as the country kicks off phase 2 of the national vaccination rollout on Monday.  

“Our concern as a province is the number of infections which have increased over the past few weeks. This indicates we have to deploy intense measures in addition to  increased testing to improve tracking and tracing the infections,” he said.

Speaking during the launch of phase 2 of the national vaccination programme, Lekwene said the province will target the Frances Baard and Pixley kaSeme districts .

Additional systems have been put in place, including generators in case of load-shedding, and the province is in a position to adapt to any situation brought about by any changes, said Lekwene.

“We will be opening a minimum of 30 vaccination sites across the province, especially when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrives. For now we are only opening Kimberley for the start of phase 2,” he said, adding “it was all systems to start phase 2”.

By May 15, the province had vaccinated 77% of health workers in the Sisonke study. This means 9,219 provincial health workers were vaccinated out of the 15,000 who were targeted.

“W are ready to start phase 2 at 8am tomorrow [Monday] at Harmony Home, which is our primary site in Kimberley.”

The province is preparing to open another two sites at the end of the week.

“Next week we are supposed to have five vaccination sites running fully.”

Regarding the registration drive for phase 2, Lekwene said 11,000 people over the age of 60 have registered in the province.

There are 3,897 over-60s based in Kimberley’s Sol Plaatje area.

“On Saturday we received our first batch of the Pfizer vaccine and we will be able to vaccinate 3,510 over 60s in the Sol Plaatje area.”

The Northern Cape has trained 220 vaccinators, of which 77 are in the Frances Baard district.

“Our vaccinators have been trained and are ready to vaccinate so mass immunity can be achieved as soon as possible. This week we hope to complete inoculating over 60s in old age homes in the Sol Plaatje area.”

Thereafter the programme will be extended to people in congregate settings followed by those under 60 living with comorbidities, he said.

Harmony Home will also be used vaccinate the remaining registered health workers.

On Monday mobile teams will be deployed to eight old age homes in the Sol Plaatje area and surrounding hospitals that have been targeted.

Lekwene said the registration drive was on track with a door-to-door campaign conducted in communities to create awareness.

“The strategy has also been to ensure the over 60s are not left behind when registering on the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS). We also want to overcome vaccine hesitancy and correct misinformation about the vaccines,” he said.

Capacity challenges within the Northern Cape’s public healthcare system may be “a high-risk factor in the rollout of phase 2 of the vaccination programme”, parliament's portfolio committee on health warned on Saturday.  

“We are concerned the province reported they have about 2,400 nurses to service the entire province. While we welcome the assurance that this represents a net increase, as the province had 1,700 nurses last year, we are concerned this might negatively impact the ability to effectively implement the clearly planned vaccination programme,” said committee chair Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

The committee is concerned that four of the five districts are led by acting district directors, who will be at the forefront of the implementation of the rollout of the vaccination programme, it was earlier reported.

Asked whether it was true that issues with the electronic registration system were to blame for SMSs not being sent to people, the health department said there was no truth in rumours that the system had collapsed. Instead, it said, there was a transition from one system to another as the country moved out of the Sisonke trial.

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