Johannesburg healthworkers queue for a Covid-19 vaccine outside the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ALAISTER RUSSEL
Johannesburg healthworkers queue for a Covid-19 vaccine outside the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES/ALAISTER RUSSEL

The government began providing Covid-19 vaccines to the public on May 17, after the Sisonke study for healthcare workers came to an end. The big question now on everyone’s mind is: “When will I get my shot?”

Here’s what we know so far. 

Who is currently eligible?

Healthcare workers and people over the age of 60. Healthcare workers are being vaccinated in what is known as phase 1b of the rollout; people over the age of 60 are the first stage of phase 2. Phase 1a was the Sisonke study.

How many people is that?

The government’s latest estimate is that there are one-million healthcare workers, down from its earlier estimate of 1.2-million. It says the private sector overestimated its figures. By the time the Sisonke study ended, 479,768 healthcare workers had been fully vaccinated.

There are 5.5-million people over the age of 60 in SA, according to the health department.

How do I apply for my shot?

Register on the government’s electronic vaccination data system; send the word “REGISTER” to 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp; or dial *134*832*ID number# or *134*832# if you do not have an ID number. You will get an SMS confirming your registration has been successful.

When will I get my shot?

At a date and time selected by the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS). The Western Cape government says people who have registered will receive an SMS with their appointment date and place within the next two to three weeks. Healthcare nongovernmental organisation Right to Care says appointments are allocated by the EVDS on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Where will I get my shot?

At a vaccination site selected by the EVDS, based on the address you provide. Each vaccination site has a geographic catchment area. This means that even if you were among the first to register after registration opened on April 16, if you live in a remote area that has yet to have a site approved you can expect to wait longer than people living close to the first sites that opened even if they registered after you.

The exception is healthcare workers, who can get vaccinated at healthcare facilities outside their catchment area.

As of Tuesday evening, 118 vaccination sites had been approved in SA, including public health facilities, retail pharmacies Clicks and Dis-Chem, and a site run by health and life insurer Discovery. More are expected to come online in the weeks ahead, once they have been approved by the SA Pharmacy Council.

What if I just turn up without an appointment?

Some sites are taking walk-ins — people who have registered on the EVDS but do not yet have a scheduled appointment. Sites also have the capacity to register people who have not yet enrolled on the EVDS, and if there are extra doses on the day, they may be able to provide one then and there, or invite you to come in at the end of the day. But it is more likely that you will be told to come back at a later stage, once the EVDS has scheduled you an appointment. Bottom line: don’t count on it.

What do I need to take with me?

Your identity document or passport.

Do provinces have a say in how appointments are scheduled?

Generally not. Appointments are allocated by the EVDS, and managed centrally. However, the Western Cape was granted access to the EVDS on May 19, and now manages its own scheduling.  

Can I choose my vaccine?

No. SA is only providing the Pfizer/BioNTech double-dose vaccine. It hopes to soon provide Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine too.

What will it cost me?

Nothing upfront. Government policy is that coronavirus vaccines should be free at the point of delivery. Medical schemes will be billed for their members and the funds will be drawn from the risk pool, not from medical savings accounts. The government has set the price for medical scheme members at R355 a dose for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot and R330 a dose for the Johnson & Johnson shot. The sites will charge a R70 administration fee.

What happens after I get my shot?

You will get a proof of vaccination card. If you received the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, you will get an appointment for your second dose.

What if I miss my appointment? 

The EVDS will automatically schedule a second appointment. If you fail to make that too, a third appointment will be scheduled. If after all that, you still don't make it, you will be removed from the system.

Source: National health department; Western Cape health department; Right to Care.

This information is being updated as new information becomes available

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