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COVID-19 vaccine information

South Africa is rolling out its national COVID-19 vaccine programme, which aims to vaccinate 40 million South Africans. The programme entails procurement, distribution, vaccination, monitoring, communication and mobilisation. The vaccination programme is a key intervention to mitigate the public health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A COVID-19 vaccine is intended to provide immunity against COVID-19. In general, vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism that triggers an immune response within the body. This weakened version will not cause the disease in the person receiving the vaccine, but it will prompt their immune system to respond. Some vaccines require multiple doses, given weeks or months apart. This is sometimes needed to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and development of memory cells. In this way, the body is trained to fight the specific disease-causing organism, building up memory against the pathogen so it can fight it in the future.

COVID-19 vaccines go through a rigorous, multi-stage testing process, including large clinical trials that involve tens of thousands of people. These trials, which include people at high risk for COVID-19, are specifically designed to identify any common side effects or other safety concerns. Once a clinical trial shows that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, a series of independent reviews of the efficacy and safety evidence is required, including regulatory review and approval in the country where the vaccine is manufactured, before the WHO considers a vaccine product for pre-qualification. An external panel of experts convened by the WHO analyses the results from clinical trials, along with evidence on the disease, age groups affected, risk factors for disease, and other information. The panel recommends whether and how the vaccines should be used.

Why are vaccines important?

The aim of vaccination is to prevent serious illness and death. It is also to achieve herd immunity and prevent ongoing transmission. When a person is vaccinated against a disease, their risk of infection is also reduced.

When a lot of people in a community are vaccinated, the pathogen has a hard time circulating because most of the people it encounters are immune. This is called herd immunity. But no single vaccine provides 100 percent protection, and herd immunity does not provide full protection to those who cannot safely be vaccinated. However, through herd immunity, these people will have substantial protection, thanks to those around them having been vaccinated.

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections. Vaccines do not give you the virus, rather it teaches your immune system to recognise and fight the infection. The COVID-19 vaccine presents the body with instructions to build immunity and does not alter human cells. Vaccines have reduced the morbidity and mortality of infectious diseases such as smallpox, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, measles, tetanus, whooping cough and pneumococcal conjugate across the world. Vaccinating enough people helps create herd immunity and stamp out the disease.

There are a number of variants of COVID-19 that have arisen around the world. No single vaccine will be effective against all the variants. South Africa’s vaccination campaign is guided by science and this means the country may need to change the choice of vaccine it uses. This was demonstrated in the case with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was less effective against the 501Y.V2 variant while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has proved effective against the COVID-19 501Y.V2 variant.

Sourcing the COVID-19 vaccine

Government is sourcing, distributing and overseeing the rollout of the vaccine. Government as the sole purchaser of vaccines will distribute it to provincial governments and the private sector.

The first doses of the vaccine were from Johnson & Johnson as its vaccine has proved effective against the COVID-19 501Y.V2 variant. The country has secured 11 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Of these doses, 2.8 million doses will be delivered in the second quarter of 2021 and the rest spread throughout the year. South Africa has also secured a further 20 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and is finalising the agreement with the company. The Department of Health has also signed a contract with Pfizer for 30 million vaccine doses of its COVID-19 vaccine. The first batch of 325 000 doses of the Pfizer vaccines arrived in South Africa on 2 May 2021, and a further 1.3-million doses are expected by the end of May 2021. South Africa will have received 4.5-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of June 2021. The government is also in various stages of negotiations with the manufacturers of other vaccines such as Sinovac, Sinopharm and Sputnik V.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout

While Government is leading the vaccine rollout initiative, they require a multi-sectoral collaboration to ensure that the vaccine drive is effective – which is why we has set up vaccination sites to assist Government with the rollout.

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign is the largest undertaking in our history, with rollout currently in phase two. Government anticipates that by the end of the third and final phase, over 40 million citizens will have been immunised.

The vaccine has been rolled out in three phases which began in phase one with the heroes on our frontlines. The target is to vaccinate 67 percent of the population, which will allow us to achieve herd immunity.

Phase 1

Frontline healthcare workers with a target of 1 250 000 people.

Phase 2

Essential workers. Target population: 2 500 000 people in congregate settings Target population: 1 100 000 people > 18 years with co-morbidities. Target population: 8 000 000

17 May 2021 until October 2021, running in two stages. The first stage from mid-May to end-July 2021 and the second stage from August to the end of October 202. People with the highest risk of hospitalisation and risk of death (+60 and co-morbidities) will be prioritised.

Phase 3

Persons older than 18 years Targeting population: 22,500,000 November 2021 until February 2022.

Netcare has three vaccination sites across three major cities. These are separate from the vaccination sites set up by the South African Government:

  • Cape Town - Old Mutual Park, Jan Smuts Road, Pinelands, Cape Town.
  • Johannesburg - Netcare Milpark Hospital, 9 Guild Road, Parktown West (parking Level 7).
  • Durban - Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, 107 JB Marks Road, Berea (parking deck level 2).

Netcare has three vaccination sites across three major cities. These are separate from the vaccination sites set up by the South African Government:

  • Cape Town
  • Old Mutual Park 09:00 – 15:00
  • Johannesburg
  • Netcare Milpark Hospital 09:00 – 15:00
  • Durban
  • Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital 09:00 – 15:00

Netcare has three vaccination sites across three major cities. These are separate from the vaccination sites set up by the South African Government:

  • Your medical aid card (if you have one) and your ID.
  • If you are a healthcare worker under the age of 50* you must bring proof of employment as well as your proof of registration with the relevant healthcare body.
  • Please remember that, if you are going for your second vaccine, to bring along your vaccination card.
  • *Government is currently rolling out to those < 50.

Walk-ins are limited as vaccination sites are full with those who have received their voucher numbers.

Conclusion

While the vaccine is an important part of COVID-19 protection, the continued practice of COVID-19 appropriate non-pharmaceutical behaviours remains crucial. These behaviours include the frequent and thorough cleaning of hands, wearing a mask/face cover and physical distancing of not less than 2 metres for personal safety and prevention of community transmission.

Source: COVID-19 Vaccination Messaging Guideline developed by the Communication Work Stream of the Technical Committee of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Vaccinations. Issued by the Department: Government Communication and Information System. 3 May 2021

Vaccine information