Eastern Cape acting head of health Sibongile Zungu. Picture: SOWETAN
Eastern Cape acting head of health Sibongile Zungu. Picture: SOWETAN

The Eastern Cape is so concerned about the logistical challenges involved in reaching the large number of people living in rural areas that it is considering using schools as vaccination sites, parliament heard on Wednesday.

A significant proportion of the province’s population lives more than 5km from a health-care facility, but most communities have a school nearby, said Eastern Cape acting head of health Sibongile Zungu. 

The Eastern Cape provincial government estimates it will need to immunise 200,000 health-care workers during the first phase of its Covid-19 vaccination programme, Zungu told parliament’s portfolio committee on health. The figure includes 58,000 health-care workers registered on the government’s personnel system Persal, as well as people working in the private sector and for NGOs, she said.

Health-care workers at highest risk of contracting Covid-19 would be vaccinated first, Zungu said.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced last week that the national government had secured 1.5-million of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, earmarked for health-care workers. Two thirds are due to arrive in SA later this month, and the final third in February.

Each province is expected to devise its own vaccination plan, in line with the national government’s guidance on which sectors of society should be prioritised for the first shots.

Achieving herd immunity will require immunising 67% of the estimated 3.7-million adults living in the Eastern Cape, said Zungu.

The first phase of the rollout is aimed at health-care workers; phase 2 will target essential workers, people over the age of 60, people with underlying health conditions that increase their risk of severe Covid-19, and people in congregate settings such as prisons.

The third and final stage includes all remaining adults.


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