WhatsApp-based registration for COVID vaccine opens

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The national Department of Health (DOH) has now made it possible for citizens to register for their COVID-19 vaccine via popular messaging service WhatsApp.

This follows health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize’s assertions last month that a WhatsApp-dedicated registration portal was in the works.

At the time, Mkhize said the WhatsApp line would be introduced as part of the registration efforts for the COVID-19 vaccine. The department has rolled out a COVID-19 vaccination self-registration portal, the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS).

The EVDS is the official online register for the COVID-19 vaccine. It was initially unveiled in February, only allowing healthcare workers to register on the portal.

It can be accessed via cellphone, tablet or computer with an Internet connection. According to the department, it aims to co-ordinate, ensure facilities that are accredited are on the system, co-ordinate the supply of vaccines, enable a pre-booking and vaccination system, and record who is and isn’t vaccinated, as well as any information that will help the department with planning, execution and monitoring of the vaccination.

In a brief statement tweeted via the South African government account (@GovernmentZA), it notes citizens can now register via WhatsApp, SMS and USSD.

“You can now register on the COVID WhatsApp number by sending ‘REGISTER’ to 0600 123 456. You can also register by SMS by dialling *134*832* [followed by] your ID number.

“If you don’t have an ID number, just dial *134*832#,” it reads.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are 157 973 438 confirmed global cases of COVID-19, with 3 288 455 deaths, while 1 206 243 409 vaccine doses have been administered, as of 10 May.

The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases identified in SA is 1 597 724, with the total number of deaths reaching 54 825, to date. The cumulative recoveries now stands at 1 517 350, representing a recovery rate of 95%.

In terms of vaccines administered locally, the health minister has indicated the number of vaccinated healthcare workers still stands at 395 230.

The South African government has encouraged citizens to use the online registration channels for the vaccines, now calling on persons 60 years and older to register for the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

In terms of timelines for phase two of the country's vaccination programme, the DOH plans to start with the group above 60 years old in mid-May, moving to persons 40 years and above from July. This will be followed by frontline workers above the 40-year age group.

It will then move to congregate settings such as old age homes and other institutions. By this time, the department believes the majority of those with comorbidities will be covered, including undiagnosed comorbidities.

The period for phase two of the vaccine rollout is projected to last six months, from May to October.

Mkhize has revealed government hopes to inoculate 46.2 million South Africans by March 2022.

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