COVID vaccine registration of next age group to go live in July

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Government’s registration process for the COVID-19 vaccine will shift to 50 years and above population group on 1 July.

Vaccinations will begin to be administered on 15 July, the national Department of Health (DOH) announced during a virtual media briefing on Friday.

The DOH’s electronic vaccination data system (EVDS) registration portal will start accepting registrations for people over the age of 50 years.

The system will continue to accept the 60 years and above age group, said the DOH deputy director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp. “As more age cohorts are opened in future, none of the previous cohorts are closed – they remain open.

“The total number of people, according to our Stats SA data, in this age category of 50 to 59 years is 4.8 million people. We will be glad if we are able to reach 65% of that population.”

The health department has rolled out four mechanisms to register for vaccinations, namely the EVDS, popular messaging service WhatsApp, USSD and a toll-free hotline.

The EVDS system has not been without its fair share of challenges, something that Crisp also acknowledged.

He said: “The portal that was provided for health workers to continue to register was abused and it became an open registration portal for the general public. Unfortunately, we had to close that and have opened a separate portal, which is now available to any registered health professional and to groups of non-professionals who support health workers. We are able to load them with a verification programme to confirm that they are indeed healthcare workers.

“That portal will remain open and will be available so that we can continue to register healthcare workers.”

Crisp explained that from the onset, government’s policy has been to target age cohorts, with the first being the 60 plus age group.

“A lot of older people have been vaccinated in this programme, but we found was that only about 50% of the population in the 60 plus target group have actually registered and just over half of those have been reached so far with vaccinations.”

He said opening up registration for persons 50 years and above is mainly because in some parts of the country, the number of people 60 plus has already been fully vaccinated, while in the department is playing catch-up in other parts.

“The registration of people on the EVDS system has been by far best in rural areas and not in urban areas. It has been very dramatically best in Limpopo where over 75% of the population over 60 has registered on the EVDS system. In urban areas, we are still battling with some areas below 35% registration.”

“This is a bit counter-intuitive because we would have expected that populations who have greater access to digital technology and bandwidth would have registered more easily.”

In total, the health department has 3.75 million registrations of people in the 60 plus age group, of which 2.5 million have been vaccinated.

On progress in terms of the country’s vaccination rollout plan, acting health minister Mammoloko Kubayi-Ngubane noted that SA has, so far, vaccinated 2.5 million people.

Kubayi-Ngubane revealed that the inter-ministerial committee on vaccines approved that registration open from 1 July for citizens between the ages of 50 years and above. “We will schedule those vaccinations to begin on the 15 of July,” she said. “I encourage all the citizens to register and get their vaccines.”

Government hopes to inoculate 46.2 million South Africans by March 2022.

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