South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign dealt massive blow by unrest

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

The country’s vaccination programme partially halted amid safety concerns as unrest continues across key provinces.

Amid growing safety concerns and with many healthcare professionals unable to access their places of work due to blockades across parts of KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, some of the centres supporting the country’s vaccination programme have had to temporarily close doors – thus reducing the number of vaccinations administered daily at a time when the country is in the midst of its third wave, driven by a more contagious Delta variant. When the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday the 11th of July, the country had been administering nearly 190,000 vaccines on average each weekday. However, over the 24-hour period leading to 17:00 on Wednesday the 14th, that figure had dropped to 146,230 with fewer centres involved, bringing the total number of vaccines administered to date to 4,688,779.

In his address just days ago, the president had extended the country’s level 4 lockdown restrictions for another two weeks after cases continued to surge following the introduction of similar restrictions two weeks earlier. This is not the first setback the country’s inoculation programme had suffered since the year started. Earlier in the year, the country had to suspend the use of AstraZeneca/Oxford’s vaccine days after it received a million doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India due to efficacy concerns. Recently, the country also had to endure delays following reports of a possible contamination at a facility used by J&J in the U.S. An additional blow likely on the horizon will be a further uptick in new cases, fuelled by the large groupings seen in the recent protests.