Gauteng health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi has revealed that Covid-19 vaccine vials have been wasted – 191 Pfizer and 498 Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
This amounts to 3,636 doses in total, as there are six doses in a Pfizer vial and five in a J&J vial.
Mokgethi was replying to questions from the DA’s member of the provincial legislature (MPL) Jack Bloom in the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday.
Mokgethi said the wasted doses resulted from opened vials not being used on time because people were either not returning for their second doses or because not enough people showed up to get their jabs.
Power failures had also led to some of the vials being spoiled, and some vaccines had expired.
“While it is disappointing that vaccines are wasted for various reasons, the larger problem is Gauteng’s flagging vaccine programme which lags other provinces,” said Bloom.
Only 29% of adults in Gauteng are fully vaccinated compared to 34% for South Africa as a whole and 40% or more in the Western Cape, Free State and Limpopo.
Mokgethi blamed vaccine hesitancy on social media, the mobility of people in the province and a shortage of the one-dose J&J vaccine where preference is given to rural areas.
The Gauteng health department is now concentrating on outreach efforts, pop-up sites at workplaces and gathering places, and more weekend vaccination sites.
“I agree with the approach to take vaccines to the people, but far more needs to be done to push up vaccinations before an anticipated fourth wave,” urged Bloom.
Only 3.3 million people are fully vaccinated in Gauteng, whereas the target is 10 million.
Mokgethi says many teenagers who are now eligible for the vaccine have deferred their jabs until after examinations.
“The priority, however, should be the 1.3 million over-50s in Gauteng who are still not vaccinated,” insists Bloom.
“Every effort should be made to reach them as they are the most likely to end up in the hospital or die because of Covid-19 infection,” he concluded.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney