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SAMRC to take vaccines to rural areas

Image: jbdodane [CC BY-NC 2.0], via Flickr

Mobile labs will reach every district by August

The South African Medical Research Council has launched a mobile vaccination project to attempt to increase Covid-19 jab numbers in rural areas.

The SAMRC in collaboration with the Chan Soon Shiong Foundation, healthcare non-profit Right to Care, the National Health Laboratory Service, and the national and Eastern Cape Department of Health will fund three mobile vaccination labs in trucks.

Two of the labs will be managed by RTC and parked at local stores in Lusikisiki, in the Eastern Cape, and another by the NHLS outside a Post Office. The target is elderly people who queue there for social security payments. The labs will then move to rural areas for people who can’t travel into town.

“Older persons are not at school, they are not at work and they do not have money to travel to get vaccines, but they are in grant queues every month,” said Jane Simmonds, an SAMRC research manager involved in the project.

Travel costs have been cited as a key driver for over-60s not accessing vaccines in the numbers expected.

The Chan Soon Shiong Foundation plans to increase the number of mobile labs to 67 and expand services to tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension, and HIV screening. Its labs will also focus on grant queues and the aim is to be present in “all South African districts in August”.

The project was announced on 9 July.