Picture: 123RF/S SILVER
Picture: 123RF/S SILVER

The Western Cape health department has urged people to wait for their coronavirus vaccine appointments, but said the door remained open for “walk-ins” who were prepared to take their chances on the day.

Vaccination began for people over the age of 60 on May 17, but the majority of the people who have registered on the government’s electronic vaccine data system (EVDS) have yet to receive an appointment. Vaccination sites around the country have been thronged by hopeful walk-ins, as word quickly spread by word of mouth and on social media that specific facilities were vaccinating eligible people without appointments.

The issue has prompted heated debate about whether walk-ins are jumping the queue, and triggered a mixed response from authorities and healthcare establishments.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde and the provincial head of health Keith Cloete stated categorically on Thursday that walk-ins would be permitted, but public sector-sites would prioritise people with appointments. A dual queuing system would be run at sites, and walk-ins would only be given shots if there were sufficient doses available on the day, said Cloete.

It appears some sites may have been providing vaccines to walk ins due to a high proportion of no-shows for appointment slots. The no-show rate was as high as 25% at some sites, said Cloete.

Vaccine registration was extremely low in some poor communities, reflecting the lack of resources available to older people in these areas, he said.

As of Thursday, 41% of the 720,000 people over the age of 60 living in the Western Cape had registered on the EVDS, but in poor communities the proportion was far lower. For example, only 4.5% of the over-60s in Browns Farm in Philippi had registered for vaccination by May 22.

As of May 26, 30,000 people over the age of 60 had received their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and the province anticipated the number would reach 40,000 by the end of the week, said Cloete. The Western Cape plans to rapidly scale up the provision of vaccines, aiming to have inoculated at least 120,000 people by the end of the first four weeks of the rollout, by which stage it needs to be doing at least 24,000 shots a day, he said.

There are currently 51 public-sector vaccination sites in the Western Cape, with another 53 planned for the next fortnight. Seven sites operated by retail pharmacy chain Clicks had begun dispensing vaccines last week, and four run by private hospital group Mediclinic were expected to begin doing so on Friday, he said. However, there had been delays in delivering stock to private sites, Cloete said. 

kahnt@businesslive.co.za

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