Vaccine security

'We do have vaccine security': SA’s stock of 3.6 million doses is a record

Plans afoot to improve weekend vaccination numbers, says Dr Nicholas Crisp

Tanya Farber Senior science reporter
Dr Nicholas Crisp, who is in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout, says stocks have been secured to see the country through August.
Dr Nicholas Crisp, who is in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout, says stocks have been secured to see the country through August.
Image: Alaister Russell

SA’s vaccine coffers are the fullest they have ever been.

This is according to Dr Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general in the health department,  who said on Friday: “By Thursday morning we had 3.6 million doses in fridges. That is 18 days' worth of vaccines, and excludes all the doses that have already been distributed and are on their way to or at sites.

“This is the strongest position we have been in.”

He said the stock will last until July 26 and information arrived on Friday about supplies for August, leading him to confirm: “We do have vaccine security.”

Crisp said 1.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine released after the US Federal Drugs Administration finalised its process were not yet going to the general population, but the department was “hoping to sort this out by early next week”.

On day 1 of the vaccine rollout there were 113 vaccine sites, but now there are 2,283 in the public sector and 314 in the private sector. Despite this scale-up, Crisp said during the health ministry’s weekly Covid-19 briefing it was noted  “a few places don’t have sufficient sites” and this was being tackled.

The daily number of vaccinations is nearing 200,000 — it was 191,000 on Thursday — but the target is 250,000 by the end of next week, according to Crisp, which is why “all services providers are ramping up”.

He said this was a “significant improvement from the 85,000 a day 10 days ago but is still way too little for herd immunity”.

The biggest challenge has been the lull on weekends, when vaccine numbers drop significantly.

“This has been a big issue from the beginning,” said Crisp, adding capacity had always been the problem.

The plan to address this entails recruiting students from health faculties and nursing colleges to “bolster capacity”.

The recruits would be drawn from students already working in health science, he said, and they will first shadow other vaccinators so they are used to the system.

“We are hoping to bolster the weekend rollouts in the near future.”

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