Elderly people waited in vain for hours for vaccines at Gqeberha site

Health department excuse is nonsense, according to researcher tracking vaccine supply

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Elderly people wait in vain for vaccines on Friday at Govan Mbeki Community Hall in Gqeberha. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

About 100 people, many elderly, were left frustrated on Friday when health officials failed to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to the Govan Mbeki Community Hall in Gqeberha. People GroundUp spoke to said there had been a shortage of vaccines at the site the whole week.

From 7am they waited for vaccines. Not a single health official arrived. Volunteers at the site phoned health officials to find out what was happening. They were promised the vaccines would be delivered by 1pm.

At 12:30pm they were told to go home.

Asked to explain what went wrong, Mahlubandile Qwase, the acting head of the provincial health department, blamed the problem on the global vaccine supply. “This has had a domino effect and impact on the country as well as the province’s supply for both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The situation therefore was not unique to Nelson Mandela Bay or even the province,” he said.

But this doesn’t make sense according to Professor Nicoli Nattrass of the University of Cape Town who has been tracking the country’s vaccine supply. “There are 1.9 million Pfizer shots that have long been available in the system, and another 5.5 million doses that should also be available as they have been in the country a week. There are also about 2 million Johnson & Johnson doses available. From South Africa’s perspective, the problem is not global vaccine supply; it’s distribution of vaccines to sites where they’re needed.”

Nomathemba Maputle, who is 71, said, “The health officials have no respect for us. On Thursday it was my date to get a second dose. But I was turned away because it was already full. I was told to come back today at 8am and stand in the queue. I was not even booked for today.”

“I arrived here at 7:30am and we have been waiting here since.”

Nompumelelo Nontshaba, who is 80, told a similar story: “On Thursday it was my date and I arrived at 10am. But I could not get my second dose because it was full. I spent R20 a day on taxi fare.”

“For the whole week many of us could not get our vaccines on our dates. Today no one received it.”

The Department says that the vaccine shortage has been resolved.

Qwase said: “The stock availability has already begun to show an upward trajectory since the beginning of August and the country has turned the corner. Vaccine supply constraints will soon be a thing of the past.”

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TOPICS:  Covid-19

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