Capacity challenges and logistical impediments a cause for concern as phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out kicks off.
THE FIRST batch of Pfizer vaccines was delivered in the Northern Cape on the weekend, where the first doses will be administered to those over the age of 60 from Monday.
The portfolio committee on health that visited Kimberley and Kuruman over the weekend to assess the Northern Cape’s state of readiness to roll out phase 2 of the vaccination programme, said that 3,150 people in the Province had registered for the phase 2 shots.
The chairperson of the committee, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, noted the Province’s decision to receive fewer vaccines to avoid wastage due to capacity challenges and logistical impediments particularly in deep rural areas.
“The committee has noted the request of the Province to the national Department of Health to consider prioritising supplying mainly the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the Province in light of a lack of refrigeration in the Province.”
The Northern Cape had indicated that it would make use of generators during load shedding to keep their refrigerators running.
Dhlomo also noted that the two percent reduction of the budget of the provincial Department of Health would “worsen an already dire situation”.
“Despite the Province’s good plans in place, the committee concluded, however, that the financial, infrastructure and topography challenges, as well as the performance of the provincial public health care system, will be a litmus test for the roll-out of the vaccination programme in the Province.”
He said that the committee had written to the National Treasury, inviting the minister and the department for a discussion on budgetary cuts especially to the health portfolio.
“This portfolio deals with matters of life and death and the continuous cutting of the budget is impacting negatively on the delivery of services.
“The committee is of the view that the equitable share model disadvantages vast provinces such as the Northern Cape and where there is no reliable public transport for the majority of South Africans to reach health care facilities.”
Dhlomo was confident that the medical depot in Kimberley would ensure the smooth distribution of medication to health care facilities.
“The mixed delivery model which the Province adopted indicates a door-to-door approach for some districts and a central point of delivery for others.
“The committee was impressed by the seamless system of dispatching medication at the depot. The committee has also evaluated the refrigeration systems to be used to store the vaccines and it appreciated the clear protocols to be followed in handling the vaccines.
“Notwithstanding the teething challenges created by budgetary constraints, the committee has encouraged the Province to do everything it can to ensure the effective roll-out of the phase 2 vaccination programme and subsequent phases in order to protect the lives of the people of South Africa.”
Dhlomo encouraged everyone to get vaccinated “to overcome the silent killer called Covid-19”.