Senior citizens from Khayelitsha Kuyasa receiving their first Pfizer vaccine at the Kuyasa Library. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)
Senior citizens from Khayelitsha Kuyasa receiving their first Pfizer vaccine at the Kuyasa Library. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / African News Agency (ANA)

Care home residents, staff refusing vaccination over fears of side effects

By Mwangi Githahu, Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Jun 14, 2021

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Cape Town - The country is experiencing a Covid-19 infections fire storm as the third wave has seen spikes in almost every suburb and town. Adding to woes is a reluctance by some senior citizens to have themselves vaccinated.

Over the weekend, the Western Cape was the second largest contributor of new Covid-19 infections, nationally. On Saturday, of the 9 320 new cases, 987 Covid-19 infections were reported in the Western Cape.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the province has the third-largest number of confirmed cases, with 300 479 as at Saturday, trailing behind KwaZulu-Natal with 343 047 confirmed cases, and Gauteng with 500 426 confirmed cases.

Dr Marvin Hsiao, in the Division of Medical Virology at UCT and the Groote Schuur Complex of the National Health Laboratory Service, said a third wave would probably be less severe in provinces and regions where the second wave had been severe.

“Because past infection is relatively protective of subsequent infections, a population where a high proportion of individuals had been infected will less likely perpetuate a new wave,” Hsiao said.

A People’s Health Movement South Africa member, Dr Lydia Cairncross, said it was not known exactly what caused a surge in Covid-19 cases, a decline and then a resurgence.

“Some of the contributing factors are (that) there remains a number of people who do not have immunity to Covid-19. That means they have either not been infected by Covid-19 or vaccinated yet.”

During a briefing to the provincial legislature’s ad hoc committee on Covid-19 by some organisations responsible for care homes for the aged in the province, it emerged that large numbers of staff and residents had refused to be vaccinated mainly because they feared side effects.

Three social welfare organisations, Badisa, ACVV and the Cape Peninsula Organisation for the Aged (CPOA), were invited by the committee to speak about their preparations and experiences with vaccination registrations on the EVDS (electronic vaccination data system), as well as the vaccine planning and roll-out readiness.

Committee member Gillion Bosman (DA) wanted to know what reasons the staff gave for not wanting to be vaccinated, Pat Lekker (ANC) asked what steps could be taken against staff refusing to be vaccinated, and Brett Herron (Good party) asked about the effect of so many staff refusing to be vaccinated.

Badisa chief executive Christine Quickfall told the members that 45% of their staff and 27% of their residents chose not to be vaccinated.

Quickfall said: “I know too little of the specific reasons right now to reliably say what the reasons were for staff not wanting to be vaccinated. However, with regard to the residents, as they see their friends and others getting vaccinated and not suffering side effects (that) will help encourage them to take the jab.”

Committee chairperson Mireille Wenger (DA) said: “Although it’s fully understandable that residents might initially feel apprehensive about the vaccine, we are encouraged that many have had a positive change of heart.

“People are realising that vaccines are safe, they work and, most importantly, they save lives. And that’s why this partnership between government and civil society, including elderly care homes, is so necessary in getting residents registered and vaccinated. Our message is for every eligible resident of the province to register for the life-saving vaccine.”

The committee resolved to ask the provincial health department to give the residents who had initially refused the vaccination a second chance now that more residents and staff were in favour of receiving it.

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Cape Argus

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