Johannesburg, 29 July, The Women’s Voice and Leadership South Africa (WVL-SA) welcomes the progress being made towards rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, but calls for sex disaggregated data to be made available as a matter of urgency. 

“Sex disaggregation is a central tenant of all data and processes in South Africa,” noted Gender Links special Advisor Colleen Lowe Morna. “We cannot measure this critical process effectively without this information.” 

In his address on Sunday 25 July, President Cyril Ramaphosa reported that 240 000 South Africans are being vaccinated daily, compared to 100,000 at the start of the month. He added that the Department of Health has administered 6.3 million vaccines. Over 10 per cent of South Africans have now received at least one vaccine dose. 

Measures announced by the President to speed roll out include: increasing the number of vaccination sites; improving the vaccination registration system; increasing vaccination capacity on weekends; opening up for people between the ages of 18 and 34 to register and be vaccinated from the 1st of September 2021; and allowing people to present themselves at a vaccination site without an appointment and be registered and vaccinated. He added that within the next two to three months, South Africa is scheduled to receive around 31 million additional doses from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

 “I registered for my vaccination on the government database, received a confirmation sms but no date. I went to a walk in centre and a few hours later I had received my fist dose of the Pfizer vaccine”, said Sithembiso Moyo the Gender Links receptionist. Her story attests to greater flexibility and access to vaccines. 

Bur sex disaggregated data on vaccine roll out is still not available. The National Institute for Communicable diseases (NICD) responded to an E Mail request made by WVL for this data by stating that: “The NICD conducts surveillance on certain aspects of COVID-19 and all our findings are reported on our website. Some of the information you require unfortunately falls outside our purview but some of the information you are looking for that is within our functions can be found here.” This data is not disaggregated by sex, a requirement of all government data in South Africa.

WVL-SA grantees who are working in South Africa have made great strides in ensuring that education and awareness on COVID-19 reaches the most marginalized and rural areas of South Africa. They are lobbying to ensure that documentation required will not prevent women, especially migrants and refugees; sex workers and gender non- conforming people are not prevented from being vaccinated dispelling myths around taking vaccinations; upskilling community workers and including them in healthcare campaigns, and ensuring the safety of all those seeking health services.

WVL-SA is a fund created and funded by Global Affairs Canada as part of its feminist foreign assistance policy. In South Africa, where the fund is managed by Gender Links, WVL-SA brings together 51 Women’s Rights Organisations (WRO) across the country, especially in Gauteng, Kwa Zulu Natal, the Western Cape and Limpopo provinces. In 2021 there are elven grantees who are working in the area of COVID-19.

“The intermittent lockdowns and regulations due to the pandemic has been a key challenge in implementation; however there has been significant progress in project implementation under difficult circumstances, it is worthy of note that a greater percentage of women in communities are keen to get vaccinated”, said Zintle Ngcobo of Coastal Resources Centre in the Eastern Cape. 

The violent protests in South Africa earlier this month following the incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma affected the roll out badly. According to KwaZulu Development and Business Information Centre challenges include electricity cuts and water shortages. They found many senior citizens without identity documents when helping them to register on the government database for vaccines.

Faith Baba from Sinqobile Kingdom Empowerment, Mpumalanga reported that, “the #VAWAG (Vaccinate All Women And Girls) project encountered challenges in a delay in implementing physical planned workshops and some challenges due to Covid-19 safety constraints. Some of our target partners such as community centres have had Covid-19 outbreaks and some workshops were thus cancelled.”

WVL hopes that the cessation of violence; shift from level four to level three lockdown, (permitting movement between provinces and meetings of up to 50 people to take place) will create conducive conditions for rapid vaccine roll out. This has a critical bearing on women’s rights, as women are the majority of those infected and affected by the pandemic. 

For more information, please contact the Grants coordinator, Nomthandazo Mankazana on 073 920 2165 or 082 560 0066. Additional information and presentations on feminist perspectives on the vaccine rollout can be accessed on the community of practice forum.