Vaccines in South Africa
(Photo by Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
  • South Africa's vaccine rollout is expected to reach police officers, soldiers, and prison warders in July.
  • These public sector employees have been identified as essential, with those over the age of 40 prioritised to receive their jabs in Phase 2 of the rollout.
  • Taxi drivers, marshals, and conductors are also in line to be vaccinated.
  • A dedicated vaccination site will be rolled out to Gauteng's taxi industry next week as part of a pilot programme.
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South Africa's vaccination rollout is planned to reach frontline workers in both the public and private sector in the coming weeks, with police officers, prison warders, soldiers, mineworkers, and taxi drivers first in line to receive their jabs.

More than 2 million South Africans have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in a rollout which has been marred by procurement delays and supply constraints. The three-phase rollout, expected to reach 67% of the population within the first half of 2022, prioritises people according to their risk of infection and socioeconomic necessity.

Frontline healthcare workers – with the highest risk of exposure to Covid-19 and importance in maintaining the public health response – were first to receive their jabs during the Sisonke Project of Phase 1.

READ | Gauteng accounts for 60% of SA's third wave – and its vaccine rollout is slower than Limpopo's

Phase 2 of the rollout began in mid-May and targets some five million South Africans aged 60 and over due to the increased rate of mortality among the elderly. This second phase also includes essential workers over the age of 40 under the banner of occupational safety and health (OHS).

Teachers are the first essential workers confirmed within this category and are due to be vaccinated with doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine by the end of June.

"The first one is the education sector. Altogether there are 582,000 people in both the public and private basic education sector including all those employed on Persal [Personal and Salary Administration System], the SGBs [School Governing Body], and private educators," explained the deputy director-general of the health department, Dr Nicholas Crisp, in a presentation on Friday morning.

"The programme is designed with a major thrust which should be over in 10 working days."

The vaccination rollout focusing on public sector workers – incorporated with the Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems) – will be run differently to that targeting the general population and private personnel.

The public sector OHS rollout is tailored to suite the respective government departments, with most employees not needing to self-register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS). In the case of the education sector, the vaccination of teachers and school staff will be overseen by the department of basic education, with provincial authorities managing sites and sign-ups.

Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) will be vaccinated in early July once the rollout in the education sector has been completed.

"The second major programme that is now at an advanced stage of planning, and will rollout pretty much immediately upon completion of the teachers, is the security cluster, starting with the police services," explained Crisp.

"About 145,000 people are covered through the Police Act and a further 36,000 through the Public Services Act. All of those people are targeted… there will be [vaccination] sites at police stations."

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has also begun to finalise its rollout for military personnel. The defence force will rely on its own military health services to administer vaccines.

South Africans employed in the correctional services sector, including prison warders and administrative staff, are also due receive their Covid-19 vaccinations within the next month.

Mining and public transport are two of the private sectors – split into the formal and informal economy – which were highlighted during Friday's presentation by the department of health, with plans to vaccinate workers already at an advanced stage.

"The taxi sector does a considerable amount of work in transportation and has both a risk to themselves, taxi drivers, marshals at the taxi points [and] conductors, and to the commuters that go in the taxis," explained Dr Barry Kistnasamy.

Vaccines in South Africa
Presentation by the national health department's Dr Barry Kistnasamy

A pilot programme which focuses on setting up workplace vaccination sites will be rolled out to the taxi industry in Gauteng next week, said Kistnasamy. Similar trials have already started in the North West province, within the mining sector, and in Gauteng, targeting the manufacturing industry.

The health department is planning to introduce 145 private workplace vaccination sites in July.

Vaccines in South Africa
Presentation by the national health department's Dr Barry Kistnasamy

"We use a two-by-two matrix to look at contribution of GDP and social impact as well as risk of disease and risk of death… and we came up with some segmentation of which sectors to start [with] first in a vaccine-constrained environment," explained Kistnasamy in detailing which industries would be prioritised in the OHS rollout.

Workers in the public service, agriculture, forestry, fishing, electricity, transportation, and education sectors are defined as having a high social and economic necessity and very high risk of exposure. Using the matrix described by Kistnasamy, workers in these sectors will be prioritised for vaccination.

Those employed in the finance, real estate, entertainment, and communication sectors are listed as being low exposure risks and of low socioeconomic necessity. These workers are likely to be last in line for the vaccine within the OHS rollout.

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