Mtshweni-Tsipane outlines Mpumalanga’s Covid-19 rollout plan.

Mpumalanga premier, Ms Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane and the MEC of Health in the province, Ms Sasekani Manzini recently launched the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, allocated for Mpumalanga province. The launch took place at Rob Ferreira hospital in Mbombela.

Giving her address, Mtshweni-Tsipane said it has been almost a year since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the Mpumalanga province and that to date, over 69 613 Covid-19 positive cases with a mortality rate of 1213 which translates to 1,7%, have been reported in the province. She added that even though there are 1661 active cases in the province currently, Mpumalanga continues to record a recovery rate of 96 %.

“These are not just statistics, they represent real people who were mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, breadwinners and active members of their communities. We have also sadly lost 41 of our health care workers in the province who have selflessly sacrificed their lives to save others. May I take this opportunity to once again relay our deepest condolences to the families, relatives and friends of those we have lost as a result of this pandemic,” said the premier.

The premier announced that the vaccines will be stored at the Mzansi Ethical Centre warehouse in Middelburg. She said for the first batch, the Medical Research Council identified Rob Ferreira Hospital and Witbank Hospital as the two sites in Mpumalanga to receive the vaccines because of the number of health care workers affected.

“The centre will then distribute it to the two facilities identified by the Medical Research Council for the first batch. Rob Ferreira Hospital is far from Middelburg, hence it will not be feasible to transport them daily, so it will be stored in the hospital pharmacy. Mzanzi will be transporting the required number of vaccines to Witbank Hospital on a daily basis,” said Mtshweni-Tsipane.

“2000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to the Rob Ferreira hospital and 1640 doses will be delivered to the Witbank hospital. The J&J vaccines we have received have a 57% protection against moderate to severe Covid-19 infections, 85% protection against severe infections and 100% protection against death,” she added.

According to the premier, the province will follow the guidelines of the National Health Council (NHC). The programme will be rolled out in three phases, which are as follows; Phase 1 which will cover immunization of all health care workers, Phase 2 which will cover essential workers, persons in congregate settings, persons over 60 years of age and persons over 18 years with co-morbidities.  Phase 3 which will cover all persons over 18 years.

She explained that Phase 1 will cover a total of 69 652 health care workers across the province, from both public and private health sector. She said health workers will be divided into risk categories with those in the priority categories receiving vaccination first.

She also explained that the risk categories are linked to the PPE Risk Categories and reflect the risk of contracting Covid-19 and are outlined as follows: Category 1 is comprised of healthcare workers conducting aerosol-generating procedures including intubation, ventilation and taking COVID-19 specimens; Category 2 is comprised of healthcare workers in direct contact with known or suspected COVID-19 patients; and Category 3 is comprised of healthcare workers in contact with patients (who are not known or suspected to have COVID-19).

“Phase 1 of our vaccination plan shall be administered through work-based vaccination programmes through occupational health care centres at both public and private hospitals, and outreach work-based vaccination programme mobile teams moving from facility to facility at primary healthcare level,” Mtshweni-Tsipane said.

“Phase 2 and phase 3 will target an estimated total of 3 164 434 people. The targeted cohort for Phase 2 will include the essential workers, persons in congregate settings, persons above 60 years of age, and persons above 18 years with co-morbidies. In the same vein, Phase 3 will comprise of other persons above 18 years of age,” she added.

The premier said the province has identified four delivery platforms to implement phase 2 and phase 3 of the roll out plan which are Health facility vaccination:  which will cater for  communities  in rural areas,  Vaccination Centres: which will include local pharmacies and doctors rooms in both public and private facilities., Outreach vaccination programme: which shall be conducted by professional outreach teams and will focus on old age homes and other congregated settings and Work-based vaccination programme: which will target specific work based areas such as the mining sectors, industries and government departments.

She said the protection of the vaccine from criminal elements is key to ensuring that the people of Mpumalanga are successfully vaccinated. She said the provincial government will collaborate with the SAPS to provide en-route safety of all vehicles transporting the vaccine from the storage centres to various vaccination sites across the province.

“Whilst the vaccine program is a proverbial silver lining in our fight against the pandemic, we must continue to exercise maximum caution by continuing to wear our masks, practicing social distancing and washing or sanitizing our hands regularly and thoroughly. I urge the people of Mpumalanga to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) because if at least 67% of our people are vaccinated, we should have sufficient herd immunity to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and put an end to the devastation of the pandemic,” she concluded.

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