The first Coronavirus shots in the Northern Cape will be given next week, as South Africa gears up for the biggest vaccination campaign in its history.
Premier Dr Zamani Saul said the distribution of the first batch of vaccines, which landed at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday, will be delivered to the province between 7 and 9 February 2021.
This means that the vaccination of healthcare workers, in line with the phased approach of the vaccine rollout plan, will kick-start on 10 February.
Saul revealed this during the Provincial COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Plan briefing on Thursday.
The 14 000 vaccines doses, expected to be delivered by Biovac early next week, will be distributed to 10 000 patient-facing personnel from the public healthcare workers, while 4 000 will go to the private sector.
The additional vaccines will be used to immunise the remaining healthcare employees, followed by the categories identified in phases two and three.
According to the Premier, the distribution of the vaccine will follow the three-phase approach, focusing on the most vulnerable.
Phase one will focus on 14 000 frontline healthcare workers at 15 vaccination centres, while the second instalment is aimed at essential workers, people in congregate settings, pensioners and those with underlying health conditions.
"Phase three will focus on the remaining population," said Saul.
The inoculation of government frontline workers is expected to be wrapped up by the end of March, while the private sector will run a parallel process.
Saul said the access to the COVID-19 vaccine is high on government’s agenda.
"That’s our priority number one, particularly with regards to protecting our frontline workers," he said, adding that the country’s target is to inoculate 67% of the population by the end of 2021.
In the province, government aims to immunise 900 000 citizens by the end of the year to reach herd immunity.
Security and training
Meanwhile, government is leaving nothing to chance, as preparations are underway to safeguard the in-demand lifesaving vaccines.
"The transportation to and security of primary distribution sites in the provinces, including the Northern Cape, will be done by vehicles fitted by tracking systems and escorted by Fidelity Armed Response and SAPS," Saul told the media.
The province has since trained about 245 staffers the provincial Department of Health who will be responsible for all vaccination sites through the South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre.
He said the rollout will be led by a Vaccine Task Team, managed by the Head of Pharmaceutical Services, comprising clinical and non-clinical staff, as well as representatives from organised labour.
Freedom of choice
"It should be noted that everyone has a choice whether they want to be vaccinated or not. No one will be forced to vaccinate. It’s voluntary," said Saul.
However, Saul said vaccination is the best defence to fight serious infections such as COVID-19.
Practice non-pharmaceutical behaviours
Saul has called on citizens to continue to practice non-pharmaceutical behaviours, which include the correct wearing of masks, hand washing with soap and physical distancing.
He said people should also seek prompt medical care when showing symptoms and isolate post-exposure or after receiving a positive test result.
Electronic Vaccine Data System
He also encouraged the health professionals to register on Electronic Vaccine Data System launched on Wednesday.
South Africa officially received its first shipment of one million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines this week.
The county procured 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII), licensed to produce a vaccine that has been developed by the multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
The second batch is scheduled to arrive later in the month from the company, while others are expected to arrive in the next coming months