Progress on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination in the Western Cape

“Hope has arrived” 

 The Western Cape Government vaccine roll out programme will officially commence by no later than 15 February. 

We anticipate delivery of the Western Cape’s share of South Africa’s first batch of vaccines at our Cape Medical Depot within the next 5 to 10 days and have prepared our systems to ensure that everything is in place for an effective and efficient rollout. 

The vaccines will be rolled out in three separate phases, starting with health care workers who are on the frontline.  

The aim of the vaccination programme is to ensure that we eventually achieve the population immunity that will prevent severe illness and death, reduce transmission, protect our healthcare system and thereby finally defeat this pandemic. 

Without a vaccine, there is a risk that we will continue to face multiple outbreaks or waves, that would result in the loss of many more lives and jobs in our country.  

We cannot afford extended and ongoing lockdowns and the COVID-19 vaccine provides us with a safe and effective route back to living our lives more normally. 

It is a reason for all of us to have hope. 

First phase rollout: 

The National Department of Health has confirmed that the Western Cape will receive 35 000 first doses for public sector health care workers, and 58 584 first doses for private sector health care workers (including hospitals, specialists, GPs, pathologists, radiographers, pharmacists, allied health workers, dentists, and other health care workers). 

The number of vaccines available for City health, outsourced workers, community health care workers, students, undertakers, and traditional healers is still being finalised by the national government, and we expect an additional allocation to our province to cover these important frontline workers. 

The National Department of Health has also committed that 2nd doses are guaranteed from the same Covishield allocation. 

The vaccines will be delivered to the Cape Medical Depot from where they will be picked, packed and dispatched to the various vaccination sites.  

Vaccines will be dispatched with all the related consumables (such as needles and syringes), vaccine cards (which will be dispensed to those who are vaccinated) and information sheets. 

A dedicated courier is in place and ready to commence the delivery process in a week’s time.  

I am also pleased that SAPS and law enforcement are on board to ensure safe-guarding of vaccine deliveries en route. 

For the first phase: 

  • We have identified 378 public sector facilities and 41 private facilities where vaccination will take place. 
  • We have ordered 93 vaccine friendly fridges which are due to arrive within the next few days. 
  • We have ordered and received consumables including needles, swabs and cooler boxes. 
  • We have conducted an assessment of the generators in various facilities and have portable generators on standby. 
  • Nearly 2000 vaccinators began their online training this week, with 500 more applicants to be loaded onto the system. 

An ongoing staff opinion poll has to date surveyed 3027 health care workers on their opinions regarding vaccination. Of these, 54% have indicated that they will be taking the vaccine, 26% have indicated they would maybe take the vaccine and 20% have said they would not take it. 

Vaccination is optional and will only be done once full consent has been given. We have embarked on various communication and information drives around how vaccines work, as well as the safety and regulatory processes that have gone into their development and approval. We hope that these interventions assist communities with the information they need to make the choice to vaccinate.  

We encourage health care workers and members of the public who have questions around vaccination to please ask them. It is important that every person has the information they need to make an informed decision. 

Next steps: 

We are currently finalising the beneficiary list for all of those healthcare workers who are not on the Western Cape Government’s personnel system. 

We have also met with the national Business for South Africa team.  A dedicated Western Cape team who will engage with the private sector, will be formalized by tomorrow. 

Phases 2 and 3: 

Discussions have started on the planning for phases 2 and 3. These phases will require the massive scale up of our first phase roll out strategy.  

In phase 2, we anticipate having to vaccinate up to 2 million residents who meet the following criteria: essential workers, people in congregate settings and vulnerable groups, including people over 60 and anyone older than 18, with high-risk comorbidities. In phase 3, we are aiming to vaccinate a further 2.9 million residents, and anyone over the age of 18 will qualify in this round. 

We have already held exploratory meetings with the City of Cape Town and the IEC in this respect, and a formal committee will commence work next week. 

Provincial Contingency Vaccine Acquisition: 

Last week, the cabinet approved a framework for provincial contingency vaccine acquisition (and procurement), to supplement the national acquisition plan. 

The Western Cape fully supports the national vaccine acquisition efforts in line with the constitutional principles of cooperative governance.  

However, we find ourselves in a situation globally where there is huge demand for vaccine supply, while suppliers are not yet producing vaccines at scale.  

A single acquisition vehicle carries inherent risk in this complex global system. This is especially the case in phases 2 and 3 of our vaccine rollout where large numbers of vaccines would be required and have not yet been guaranteed through national procurement. 

Centralised procurement requires a contingency plan that is complementary to the national strategy. 

This does not mean that the province does not support or does not want to be part of the national strategy. We will continue to work with the national Department of Health, and we will, of course, coordinate our efforts with theirs. But we will at the same time ensure we can mitigate the risk and ensure additional pathways to source vaccines.  

Doing this not only reduces the risk associated with only one supply, but would also support the national effort, as any additional vaccines sourced for the Western Cape would be in support of the national cause overall.  

Any contingency acquisition must remain within the core parameters of the national and provincial vaccination programme, and must be driven by clinical and professional ethics in vaccine selection and in the roll out. It must also be subject to the necessary regulatory requirements of SAPHRA and the Medicine Control Council. 

The framework has as one of its key elements, a sourcing strategy which covers demand forecasting and planning, market analysis and the appropriate procurement modality. We need to properly understand demand in our market and at the same time, determine what product is available to us, in a rapidly changing market.   

Alongside this, there is a regulatory analysis underway. There are complex medical and financial regulatory issues which first need to be assessed.  All of these processes are necessary before we can formally approach the market in a procurement process that can go ahead within the regulatory framework. 

These are complex processes which require minute scrutiny, and which are underway by our top officials. Once they are finalised in the coming weeks, the procurement effort may commence in earnest.  

I have had discussions with the Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier as to how we would fund any additional vaccines procured by the province. 

He has indicated that the provincial government has multiple sources of revenue available, including an equitable share of nationally raised revenues, conditional grants from national government, own revenue sources and provincial reserves, but reprioritisation within existing baselines is also likely to be required. Funding will be made available for our vaccination programme, including procurement, as it develops. He will announce further details when he tables the provincial budget on 10 March. 

A successful vaccination programme is our number one budget priority. The cost of not procuring sufficient vaccines to achieve herd immunity, for the country and for the province, is simply too great for us not to consider contingencies for procurement.  

Vaccines save lives. They also reduce the cost and burden of Covid-19 care in our healthcare system, allow us to restore access to healthcare for other serious illnesses and ailments, and would allow for the opening of local and international economies.  

As a government which has been allocated a shared Constitutional mandate for the healthcare of its residents, we must be and are prepared to step in, if sufficient vaccines are not available. 

Until a vaccine is widely available, we must continue to do everything possible to ensure that we minimise the risk of future waves. Infection prevention protocols such as mask wearing, hand- and surface hygiene, and social distancing remain key in protecting ourselves and others. This is a shared responsibility that we must all undertake in order to ensure that we can safely move forward. 

I wish to once again thank the people of this province and our health care workers for everything they have done to save lives and ensure a sustained decline of the first wave. The Western Cape Government and our partners have worked hard to provide the resources-beds, staff and oxygen need to ensure that we could manage the peak of the second wave. We did not run out of any of these crucial life-saving resources. But we could not have done it without you and our brave health care workers.