Allow GPs to give Covid vaccines: South African Medical Association

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) is calling on the government to allow general practitioners (GPs) to administer Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of SAMA told eNCA that this would make the country’s rollout significantly more convenient and help accelerate the uptake of the vaccine. Under the current system, South Africans can only receive a Covid-19 vaccine from a designated public or private vaccination site.

Coetzee said that while mass vaccinations were an important tool at the start of the country’s rollout effort, it is now necessary to allow doctors to vaccinate patients who have continued to hold out. She added that all doctors have been trained in properly administering vaccines and that this is the system used by other countries.

The doctor said that the first step would be to upgrade the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS) to allow doctors to register more easily.

The government also needs to make it easier for doctors to buy vaccines as the only option currently is to buy in bulk, which is prohibitively expensive. This can be remedied by developing ‘depots’ where doctors can order 10-15 jabs for their practice on a daily basis, she said.

South Africa had administered 28 million Covid-19 vaccinations as of Monday (3 January), but the uptake has slowed significantly in recent weeks, despite the ongoing threat of the Omicron variant. Health authorities will begin offering booster shots to fully vaccinated South Africans in January despite the slowing rollout.

This comes after both the Pfizer and J&J booster vaccines were approved for use by the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) at the end of December.

The regulator approved the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) booster shot to be taken at least two months after the initial dose for adults over the age of 18. Pfizer booster vaccinations will be made available to anyone who received their last dose at least six months since the second primary dose.

The local drug watchdog also authorised the heterologous booster, also known as mix-and-match jabs, for those who had the Pfizer jab, at least after six months after the second dose. However, according to the Department of Health, only homologous boosting is currently permitted, meaning people may only get the same vaccine that they received as their primary vaccination series.

On Monday (3 January), a total of 17,339 tests were conducted, with 3,232 new cases reported, representing an 18.6% positivity rate. A further 87 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported, taking total fatalities to 91,312 to date.

The total number of vaccines administered in the country has exceeded 28 million, with just under 18 million people vaccinated.

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Allow GPs to give Covid vaccines: South African Medical Association