UNICEF is supporting the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out through direct health and risk communication and community engagement support. Cold chain specialists are providing training, a COVID-19 vaccination field guide has been developed, as well as training of health care workers on the Med Safety Application – an electronic tool for reporting adverse events following immunization. Communication and community engagement work also continues on promoting vaccines, adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures and monitoring misinformation.
UNICEF support to routine child immunization catch-up drives continued across all districts, with national immunization coverage for children under one year now at 79%, more than 4% below coverage last year. Six of the twelve priority districts reached the 90% coverage target during January to March 2021 compared to four districts during the last quarter of 2020.
While schools remain open, rotational learning is the current model.
UNICEF is supporting distance and home-based learning for children when they are not physically in class, with more than 539,522 children reached through the ActiveLearning@Home series, as well as the 2Enable and Tshwaragano ka Bana series. UNICEF produced videos for grade R to grade 3 are also still accessible online.
The President raised the country to COVID-19 Alert Level Two on 30 May, as COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise in certain provinces. Concerns of a ‘third wave’ remain, with ‘COVID fatigue’, the slow pace of the vaccination roll out and potential new variants contributing to fears of a wider spread.
Phase Two of the COVID-19 vaccination programme started on 17 May for people older than 60 years. To date, nearly 960,000 South Africans have received a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 67% of health workers having been vaccinated through the Sisonke trial period. Registering the elderly population, the accreditation of more healthcare facilities for the vaccine’s rollout, and regular vaccine arrivals are being prioritized.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Ministerial Advisory Committee decided that all primary schools will fully operate at 100% capacity from the third semester on 26 July 2021. The education sector, along with all partners, will need to ensure the risk adjusted strategy is adhered to so that schools are as safe as possible. This includes appointing youth through the Community Works Program (CWP) to assist with monitoring compliance and helping schools to maintain COVID-19 protocols at schools.