The vaccination ward at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in April. (Photo by Deaan Vivier/Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
  • The second phase of South Africa's Covid-19 vaccine rollout starts today – barely.
  • Fewer than 4,300 senior citizens were due to have been invited to receive their shots, out of a target of five million.
  • Old-age homes are due to be visited separately, but will account for a small number of the at-risk people due to receive inoculation.
  • You can't visit a vaccine site to register, or choose which vaccine you receive, not yet.
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South Africa is due to start Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout programme today – but will still be mostly vaccinating healthcare workers, with a barely-there start due for people over 60.

A large number of Pfizer vaccines are available, but only a fraction of the promised 3,000 sites where vaccines are to be administered will be operational.

On Sunday night, in releasing for the first time many of the details that will characterise the second phase, health minister Zweli Mkhize noted the slow start as a choice.

"We have learned from Sisonke [the Phase 1 rollout of J&J vaccines to healthcare workers] that the first few days start slowly as vaccinators get used to the new vaccine then once operators are comfortable the turnover ramps up significantly," he said, of numbers that "will start fairly slowly".

"This is what we have planned around to allow us a few days to iron out any teething problems."

Here's what we know about Phase 2 of South Africa's Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Very few people will get vaccines immediately...

A total of 1.227 million people over the age of 60 have registered to receive vaccines, out of an end-June target of five million.

Of those, fewer than 4,300 were invited to receive their first shots on Monday. That is 0.35% of the registered group, and 0.09% of the target audience, even assuming that all those invited manage to get their jabs.

Assuming a steady drumbeat of shots, seven days a week, the target for the end of June equates to well over 100,000 doses that must be delivered every day.

The majority of those who receive shots on Monday are still due to be healthcare workers.

... and not for lack of doses to give.

For the time being, every vaccination offered in South Africa will be a first dose of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

There are now just under a million doses of that vaccine in ultra cold storage in South Africa.

Some (but not many) older people will receive their vaccines at care facilities.

Old-age homes will be visited to deliver vaccines, Mkhize said, though the details on such plans are still to come from most provinces.

In total, 50,000 senior citizens in a little over 100 care facilities are on the list for such home visits – for 1% of the targeted population of people over the age of 60.

You can't – yet – choose your vaccine, or walk into a vaccine centre.

There is no choice in which vaccine you will receive, said Mkhize – "[a]t this stage".

"When you get vaccinated you will be informed which vaccine you are getting, and if a second dose is needed."

For the time being, only Pfizer vaccines are in use, with safety release still pending on one-dose J&J vaccines.

Likewise, plans to offer a walk-in service for those who receive a "voucher", or confirmation that they are eligible, are still on hold. 

The appointment system will keep trying you, for a while.

Those who miss appointments will be rescheduled two more times, Mkhize said, with dates and times assigned. How much notice intended vaccine recipients get is expected to depend heavily on where they said they wish to receive their vaccines, and how fast new vaccine centres open.

After a third missed appointment, recipients will have to manually reschedule, either over the phone with the government's Covid-19 hotline, or by going to a registration centre in person.

No money should change hands in return for a vaccine

After some initial confusion, the government said no site administering vaccines – including private pharmacies – will be allowed to charge anything at all for that service.

A R70 administration charge must only ever be billed to a medical aid, or to the state, and the vaccine recipient may not be asked for the money up front, for later recovery from a medical aid.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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