19 May 2021
Currently, Covid-19 vaccine sites will only vaccinate if a person has an appointment through the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS). After registering online, one must wait for an SMS with the time and location for vaccination. Walk-ins are not accepted.
But on Tuesday, things did not go according to this plan at the Discovery Health Sandton Head Office.
Ryan Noach, Discovery Health CEO, told GroundUp: “Overnight there was a glitch in scheduling for our site. It seems only to have affected 1 Discovery Place.”
This morning, with everything ready, no one pitched up for the jab.
“We’ve got about 100 staff that we’ve hired at this vaccination site. We were empty this morning, and rather than wasting a day’s time and not delivering any vaccinations, in discussion with Dr Crisp with the Department of Health, we agreed that we would invite people over the age of 70 who have registered on EVDS.”
According to Noach, no official announcement was issued. “We actually never got to make the announcement. We had planned to send limited communication out starting with our members, but before we even got to that, word of mouth seemed to spread the message. And before we knew it there were many, many people in the centre.”
The news went viral, apparently spreading first from Discovery staff.
One woman said she heard about it from her son in London. “It’s like such a relief I could cry,” she said after getting her jab.
“We’re happy that there were 1,200 people in the building,” said Noach. “They’re from all over, all parts of society, many of them don’t have medical aid, some have medical aid, some are Discovery clients, and we are happy to vaccinate them all.”
Noach said that over the next few days Discovery would build up capacity to vaccinate 2,400 people per day at the centre.
“We have another 15 vaccinators coming online tomorrow. We phased it in so that we could get the operational process smooth.”
“We then register that capacity with EVDS. The South African Pharmacy Council comes and accredits us for that capacity and then the vaccine supply is sent to match that capacity.”
The South African government is the single purchaser of vaccines.
People who arrived were either allowed into the building or given a ticket with a time to come back during a slot before 6pm (when the centre would close).
“Clearly there’s a lot of anxiety out there, the word travelled extremely fast,” said Noach.
He said by 11:30am the centre was full for the day.
Neil (82) and Leonie (80) Porter, who heard about the opportunity from their grandson, arrived at 11:25am. “It was brilliantly organised,” says Neil Porter.
Another 67-year-old, who did not want her name made public, said, “I wasn’t registered. I heard about it and I took a chance and came and they were absolutely fantastic. It was quick and very efficient.”
“I was one of the last few to be given a number. I went through and sat with everybody else and it became quite sociable, and I think we’re all just happy that it’s been done.
But Justine Theron, who brought her 78-year-old father, who is having chemotherapy, all the way from Helderkruin in Roodepoort, arrived too late. Theron was angry because she had contacted the call centre at midday and was misinformed that she could come.
“At least we didn’t waste a day and sit here empty with all this capacity available,” said Noach.