People are urged to get the flu jab but Free State clinics have no shots   

A clinic name board on a wall
Dr Pedro clinic is one of the clinics that don't have flu vaccines. (Molefi Sompane)

South Africa is seeing a rise in flu cases, and health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against the flu. Vaccines are available at public clinics free of charge for people at high risk such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions. But this has not been the case for some patients in the Free State. 

Health-e News spoke with patients who say they’ve not been able to get the flu vaccine at their local clinics. 

One patient who went to Potlako Motlohi clinic in Botshabelo last week is 64-year-old Mamqekele Morobi. She says she was told there were no flu vaccines. Morobi usually gets her flu vaccine in the private sector. This year she went to a public clinic after hearing on the radio that vaccination was free. 

“Nurses told me there were no flu vaccines. They said the MEC’s call for people to get vaccinated was just a political ploy for people to vote for her party [ANC],” she says. “They say the department hasn’t provided any flu vaccines to the clinic.” 

Another patient, 34-year-old Thato Lekoenea who also goes for a vaccine every year at private pharmacies says there isn’t enough stock at Winnie Mandela clinic in Botshabelo. She was told the jabs are reserved for the elderly who would be vaccinated during the health MEC’s later this month. “Nurses are not promoting it and I believe that will cause it to expire,” says Lekoenea.  

Health-e News found four other facilities in Mangaung with no flu vaccines, including the Dr Pedro clinic. 

Gary Swanepoel, 46, says he was turned away from the MUCCP clinic in Bloemfontein, where health MEC Mathabo Leeto received her jab two weeks back. 

Not enough vaccines

Workers at some clinics also say there aren’t enough vaccines.  

A nurse at Maletsatsi Sejake clinic in Botshabelo, who asked not to be named, says her facility doesn’t have doses of the flu vaccine as they are stored at the local hospital Botshabelo District Hospital.  

“We are supposed to register people first and we book an appointment for them. This is because each container contains limited doses and we are given doses according to the number of patients who are registered. This is to avoid unnecessary waste and due to the fact that our facilities do not have suitable storage for them. Even last year we only had 3 patients who came for the vaccine.”

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, flu season is from mid-April to August, and people can get vaccinated at any time. 

Currently, MUCCP clinic has ran out of flu vaccines. Nurses there say they saw an influx of patients coming for the jab after the MEC’s much-publicised visit.  

This is in stark contrast to last year when “we had doses returned to the depot due to them expiring without use,” one of the nurses says.  

But Free State health spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, denies reports of vaccine unavailability, saying the department has dispatched many doses throughout the clinics in the province. 

“There is always flu vaccination during this period of every year. It’s just that there was no active campaign done around it in previous years. The department realised that there was a low uptake and we needed to improve awareness,” he says.  

“The vaccine is stocked at all primary health facilities across the province, and if we don’t tell and encourage people to take it, the vaccines will expire. The public is encouraged to go to health facilities and get the flu vaccine to protect their lives.” 

Former health MEC speaks out

Health-e News spoke with former Free State MEC of Health Montsheng Tsiu on the sideline of the President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign visit in Botshabelo in mid-April.  Tsiu, who is currently the chair of the portfolio on Social Health and Education in the province, confirmed the unavailability of flu vaccines in the Free State. 

“You’d be aware that people with medical aid or those who go to private doctors pay around R120 to R150 for the jab. Should we provide these [flu shots] at our facilities, we would use over R2 million to care for the 2 million people of the Free State in a single financial year.  Another reason I never advocated for the vaccine is that you’d have enough stock, only for it to go to waste because many people still associate vaccination with COVID-19 and our people are afraid.” – Health-e News 


Free to Share

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in the loop

We love that you love visiting our site. Our content is free, but to continue reading, please register.

Newsletter Subscription

Enable Notifications OK No thanks