Covid-19 vaccinations halted in KZN, pharmacy inoculation sites looted
Covid-19 vaccinations were halted in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday following several days of looting and mass destruction of property, the health department said.
Popo Maja, the department’s head of communications and stakeholder management, said: “Vaccinations have been halted, not by instruction from the national health department but by the provincial government, following the security assessment on the ground.
“Health services have also been severely disrupted.”
Areas in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have witnessed mayhem with scores of businesses looted, destroyed and set alight. Protests, which started last week, reportedly kicked off with calls for jailed former president Jacob Zuma to be freed.
The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) said its pharmacies, some of which were offering Covid-19 vaccinations, were badly affected by unrest over the weekend and on Monday.
“As a direct result of the violence that has spread across the country, our independent pharmacies have been looted and destroyed, with millions of rand of much-needed medication lost and destroyed,” the ICPA said.
The association said while President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced plans to vaccinate around 200,000 people a day, the latest developments would severely hamper the plan.
“This becomes impossible since pharmacy vaccination sites have been destroyed and looted,” it said.
Besides the halting of vaccinations, the association warned that the looting locations were becoming Covid-19 superspreader events.
In a video circulating online and recording looting in Gauteng, an elderly woman was seen in a pharmacy which was being looted while she tried to find specific pills.
“Leave this place. It is enough now,” the young man recording the video is heard telling her.
“I will leave. I am looking for Procydin pills. Where are they?” she is heard saying while wandering around the pharmacy.
The ICPA further warned that the destruction not only affected vaccination plans but patients in dire need of chronic medication.
The association called for action from the government and requested better protection of its facilities by authorities.
In Gauteng, the health department said it was continuing with vaccinations while monitoring the situation.
“Health facilities and vaccination sites are operating. The situation is volatile and evolving,” said department spokesperson Kwara Kekana.
The Gauteng provincial government on Monday issued a statement saying the ongoing unrest had affected service delivery, even at vaccination sites.
“To this end, some provincial government services, including vaccination sites in the affected areas, have had to temporarily close due to safety concerns for staff and members of the public,” read a statement from premier David Makhura.
“Emergency medical service teams are equally experiencing difficulty in responding to distress calls in communities due to limited access.”
Makhura called for Gauteng residents to act responsibly and desist from lawless acts.