Health Minister Mkhize adamant COVID vaccination rollout plan achievable

The Health Ministry is sticking to its guns and detailing an ambitious plan to vaccinate 40 million people against COVID-19 in the next 12 months.

Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Thursday that the first million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will land in South Africa this month.

He released a statement shortly after he finished briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on health.

He said we need to vaccinate between 67% and 70% of the population to break the cycle of transmission.

Briefing MPs, Mkhize said they wanted to get that done in 12 months but immunising 40 million people in a year was no small task.

The department is planning on rolling out over 300,000 vaccinations a day.

Finding the staff to pull that off is a challenge in and of itself, even in the best-case scenario that every vaccinator can inoculate 50 people a day, a small army of 6,300 vaccinators will be needed.

So where will these people come from?

“From clinical associates, community service doctors and nurses, contract nurses who are involved in other programmes on vaccinations, etc.”

The department will also have to find teams of people in each province to ensure the vaccines are handled properly and that the cold chain integrity is maintained.

Mkhize said the second wave was hitting hard and nowhere was it felt more keenly than among healthcare workers.

“The level of exhaustion is quite noticeable on our staff.”

Frontline workers are also at high risk of catching the virus and succumbing to it and that’s why they will be the first beneficiaries of the vaccine.

Mkhize said they would vaccinate staff within the hospitals both public and private.

For rural areas, they will run an outreach programme.

“We get one hospital and it runs up the clinics and centres where health workers are so in that district, everyone is covered.”

After the healthcare workers are vaccinated, the next massive logistical undertaking begins, vaccinating thousands of staffers who’re considered vital to the functioning of society – among them police members, teachers and miners.


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Zweli Mkhize