The Eastern Cape, a leader in the country’s vaccination drive, attributes its success to intensive vaccination campaigns at grant pay points, pop-up weekends and a network of jab sites at strategic points.
The province’s programme was boosted with west, east and northbound rail corridor vaccination coverage with the arrival of Transnet’s Transvaco Vaccine Train this week.
With 21.8% of more than 4 million eligible people full vaccinated, it is the most successful province in the country and is inching closer to its vaccination target of 4.9 million people to achieve herd immunity.
This is a change in direction after the Eastern Cape was in the headlines for the wrong reasons late last year when it became a Covid hotspot.
There was panic when its public and private hospitals were overwhelmed with infected patients, some of whom had to be turned away.
Now, its weekly infection rate at the end of last week was 27% less than the preceding week. The number of active cases also dropped, from 243 to 177.
Even Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla was impressed with the Eastern Cape vaccination turnaround and praised it for leading the way countrywide.
At the vaccination train handover at Swartkops Station in Gqeberha on Tuesday, upbeat Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth said that as of 11 September, the province had administered 1,815,777 vaccines to 1,288,735 people.
Of those, 943,670 had been fully vaccinated, meaning one in every five inhabitants of the province was fully vaccinated.
The 2011 census data showed that the province had a population of 6,562,053, of which 20.8% and 17.6% were in the OR Tambo district and Nelson Mandela Bay metro, respectively.
About 88% (5.8 million) of the provincial population received services from the public health sector, as medical aid coverage in this province was at just 12%.
Meth attributed its success to an intense rural and urban outreach programme that encourages communities to come forward and inoculate.
The department staff vaccinated senior citizens while they queued for their social grants. The Eastern Cape had established 12,246 vaccination sites, with the Nelson Mandela Bay area having 55 daily active sites,
supplemented by weekend pop-up sites.
In the Bay area alone, a total of 285,690 vaccines had been administered, of which 204,671 accounted for people who were fully vaccinated. This means 23.7% of the eligible population has received full doses.
“To improve access to vaccination, we have travelled the length and breadth of our province, taking this crucial and lifesaving service directly to people.
“We have done this by partnering with businesses, government entities, NGOs, civil society and communities at large,” she said.
She said while they had managed to reduce vaccine hesitancy, there was still reluctance, mainly among men.
“We can’t afford to have the vaccination programme stagnate.
“We encourage men of our glorious province to heed the call to get vaccinated.
“Our message to them is: come out in numbers and get vaccinated. We are confident that they will indeed come in numbers to this train,” Meth said.
She said with the Transvaco vaccine train, “we’ll be able to reach more people”.
“It will certainly increase the protection of our citizens from severe illness, hospitalisation and death,” Meth said.
The Travaco train will remain in the province until 16 December. After Gqeberha, it will travel to eQonce, Mdantsane, East London, Dutywa, Mthatha and finish at Komani.