The authors report that the Western Cape Health Department says it can handle around 25,000 vaccinations per weekday and will soon open a site at CTICC which will be open seven days a week, 12 hours a day. (Illustration: Lisa Nelson)
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statements on vaccine supply are confused. Apparent inconsistency and lack of transparency can be symptoms of a vaccine strategy that is being driven by political rather than scientific considerations.
First published by GroundUp.
Jeremy Seekings is Professor of Political Studies and Sociology at UCT and Nicoli Nattrass is Professor of Economics at UCT.
Tuesday, June 15, talk on tvPresident Ramaphosa told the nation that there had been “delays” and “setbacks” in the immunization rollout, but he was back on track.
But which track is it?
The president’s report on the immunization program was confusing, apparently reflecting the absence of any clear and coherent government strategy.
The government’s original vaccine deployment strategy (published on January 3) has established a very general roadmap to both secure vaccine supplies (mainly via the Covax facility and national manufacturers) and then administer them to priority groups (health workers, then the elderly, adults with co-morbidities, people in “like prisons and essential workers).
Current government policy soon departed from this strategy. It soon became clear that most of the required vaccine doses would have to be obtained directly from foreign pharmaceutical companies. Then, as we know, there were multiple problems with these supplies. Meanwhile, the actual rollout was organized around the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS): people would register and then learn when and where to go to get the vaccine. This meant that vaccinations would take place only by age cohort as this was the only criterion that could be easily verified.
Since May 17, date of the start of vaccinations via the government program, the deployment has been modified several times. Many vaccination sites have shown admirable flexibility in vaccinating walk-in “walk-ins” and even helping people register on-site. The EVDS procedures for making an appointment have been modified. The vaccine allocation system was changed: doses were allocated directly by the national government to the private sector and allocations to provincial health departments were reduced. The classification of priority groups seems to have been abandoned. When asked directly through eNCA (June 10) On prioritization, the government official in charge of deployment (Dr Nicholas Crisp) avoided answering the question, explaining that there were “conflicting demands”.
Many of these changes were very good. As the Western Cape Health Department said: “It is important to plan as best you can, but learn from the experience as it unfolds… [We] must be prepared to learn from what works and change what does not.
Other changes were questionable, especially given the decrease in transparency about who exactly gets what, when and why. Rather than listening to scientists, the government seems to make decisions on an ad hoc and political basis.
This probably explains why the president’s comments on Tuesday’s deployment were so confusing.
First, consider his comments on vaccine supply. The president said the country had “to date received nearly 2.4 million doses of Pfizer vaccine” and “by the end of June we expect to have received a total of 3.1 million Pfizer doses.”
This does not match our data on actual deliveries of Pfizer vaccines. Unfortunately, the government has stopped announcing when deliveries are arriving in the country. Several sources suggest, however, that 2.6 million doses of Pfizer had been airlifted into the country as of June 7 and that deliveries totaling 3.3 million additional doses were expected by the end of June, bringing the planned total to 5.9 million doses of Pfizer.
What the President might have meant is that an additional 3.1 million doses were expected in June, bringing the total to 5.5 million doses (close to our figure of 5.9 million doses). We have asked the Department of Health to clarify, but our questions are no longer being answered. Without more transparency, there is no way to see through the mess of presidential announcements.
Who will receive these vaccines? The president assured us Tuesday that “our immediate task is to complete without delay the vaccination of all over 60 years”. But he also told us that “the initial doses we receive from Johnson & Johnson will be used to immunize educators in our schools and subsequently frontline security personnel.” Will the vaccination of the elderly be delayed because teachers, police and soldiers have priority over them?
How quickly will vaccines be deployed? The president told us on Tuesday evening that we have the capacity to administer 150,000 vaccines per day. Yet Dr Crisp Told eNCA last week that the program was operating “at about full capacity”: “We just don’t have a vaccine pipeline that can handle more vaccines than they are currently delivering.” Last week, the rollout averaged 83,000 vaccinations per weekday, barely half the figure provided by the president on Tuesday night (and significantly less than the number of vaccines arriving in the country, according to the country’s own figures. Crisp).
Some provinces are asking for more supplies. The Western Cape Health Department, for example, says it can handle around 25,000 vaccinations per weekday – and will soon open a site at the Cape Town International Convention Center (CTICC) which will be open seven days a week, for 12 hours a day. day. day. But the national health ministry currently allocates only 10,000 vaccines per weekday to the province.
We have argued several times that the vaccines available can be used more quickly than at present. Are vaccines stored for distribution through alternative channels? A portion of each delivery is already reserved for distribution via the “private sector”. There is no transparency on how much, who decides it, or who gets these vaccines and when. It has proved impossible to obtain data from the public sector on this subject. Without transparency on vaccine allocation, there is no way to hold the government accountable for the timing of immunizations using available supplies.
When the President and others say that various categories of public sector workers should be given priority, without an explanation, we are certainly right to fear that the re-prioritization is politically motivated.
Both Pierre bruce and Marcus Bottom blasted the government for the lack of contingency planning in the event that expected supplies are delayed. Low rightly calls on the president or the acting health minister to urgently provide a full briefing on how much vaccine is expected and when with a plan B in the event of further setbacks.
The government must do more than that. We need a clear explanation not only of vaccine supply – including with contingency planning – but also of how existing supplies are being used and how future supplies will be used.
Simply put, we need a transparent and consistent deployment strategy. DM
The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of GroundUp.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-17 13:04:50