Looks like South Africa’s vaccine queue jumpers will get away with it

Business Insider SA
Information sign to Covid-19 vaccine registration
  • People who are neither healthcare workers nor older than 60 have received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Some exploited system loopholes, and others just plain lied.
  • None are likely to face consequences.
  • Though every dose of vaccine is carefully tracked for reporting to multiple authorities, there is no way to do a queue-jumping audit, says the man in charge of the system.
  • For more stories go to

Some South Africans have jumped the queue to get their first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine well before they were due, under a system that prioritised first healthcare workers, then people over the age of 60.

And it looks like they are going to get away with it.

Some of the queue-jumpers lied, saying they were healthcare workers with potential front-line exposure to the coronavirus. Some exploited loopholes in the sprawling Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS), bypassing an ID-number check supposed to ensure those registering are at least 60 years old.

The scale of the problem was such that registration for healthcare workers was halted this week, until a more secure method could be created to queue them up for inoculation.

But what is done is done, says Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director general in the department of health responsible for the EVDS. If asked for an audit to identify queue jumpers, his unit "wouldn't be able to provide data that is useful in that," he told Business Insider South Africa this week.

"It is not technically possible."

With the start of the second phase of the vaccination effort, a broad appeal was made to those healthcare workers who had not yet been vaccinated in the Sisonke J&J trial – and to people who would not normally be considered health staff as such. Traditional healers, undertakers, and others in the broader healths sector were encourage to register for their vaccine shots. So were support staff in hospitals and elsewhere in the health sector, from receptionists in GP offices to cleaners at hospitals.

These "non-professional health workers" have no registration with a professional body, and there is no way to tell who may genuinely work with the public in a healthcare setting, says Crisp.

If, say, an optometrist claimed a family member as a staffer in order to get them vaccinated, "how am I going to know that person doesn't work with the public in that practice?" asks Crisp. "How am I going to prove it?"

Non-governmental groups called for a full audit of vaccines delivered after it emerged that elite athletes were put at the front o the queue for one-dose J&J shots.

Even if that were technically possible, there is no sign of political will for such an exercise, and the outcome would likely be purely statistical anyway; it is not clear that any form of criminal or civil censure exists to use against queue-jumpers, and strict medical privacy rules mean they can not even be named and shamed.

What may happen, though, is that a fast rollout of vaccines to those who want them will relieve concerns about who is where in the queue.

"Time is a great healer," says Crisp. 

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