Minister of Health Zwelini Mkhize. Picture: Phando Jikelo/african News Agency (ANA)
Minister of Health Zwelini Mkhize. Picture: Phando Jikelo/african News Agency (ANA)

Healthcare staff first in line for jab

By Nicola Daniels Time of article published Jan 8, 2021

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Cape Town - The health sector and unions have hailed the government's announcement that the first one million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from India will be prioritised for healthcare workers.

Briefing the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health on Thursday Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the Serum Institute of India has given the country permission to start engaging with all the relevant stakeholders in preparation for the roll out.

“As a country we have estimated that 1.25 million health care workers both public and private sector will be prioritised. South Africa will be receiving one million doses in January and 500 000 in February.”

He said the department was working with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) in fine tuning and aligning all the regulatory processes to ensure there would be no delays.

The Serum Institute vaccine, Astra Zeneca had already been approved by various regulators, Mkhize added.

His announcement was hours before the Western Cape provincial government said

1 019 healthcare workers across 97 institutions in the province were infected bringing the total staff infections since the start of the pandemic to 7 246.

This resulted in a total of 37 795 days which were lost as staff needed to take sick leave while isolating.

On Wednesday, the country had reached a grim milestone on Wednesday, breaching the 20 000 mark for new cases identified in 24 hours with 21 832 cases recorded.

That brought the total cumulative Covid-19 cases in SA to 1 149 59.

The department said 844 new deaths were recorded, and 31 368 in total.

As of 1pm on Thursday, the Western Cape had 37 288 active Covid-19 infections with a total of 226 908 confirmed infections. The province recorded 123 additional Covid-19 related deaths, bringing the total number to 7806.

Reacting to Mkhize’s announcement, the SA Medical Association (Sama) expressed gratitude for the procurement.

“We are extremely happy and grateful to the Minister for being able to procure those vaccines from India. It was said before India would first look at themselves, they wanted to first vaccinate 100 million people. We knew only on a political level to get it imported. We are happy at least some healthcare workers can start getting vaccinated,” said Sama chair, Dr Angelique Coetzee.

She said as the private sector they would be working on a plan to assist the Minister in terms of roll out.

“We urge our members to please vaccinate themselves. Healthcare workers are the first in line, this will help them not get sick so easily, so they can treat their patients,” she said.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) emphasised the importance of the decision.

“We welcome the government purchasing the vaccine, we think it will come in handy for society in general. We hope more will be procured because our worry is society in general must be covered.

’’The virus has become community based, a lot of people have the virus, even if they are not tested, it is spreading faster than the tests are being done. The more people are vaccinated the more it will reduce the spread. People then won't suffer severe symptoms and might not die from the virus, meaning the death rate will go down.”

Provincial health spokesperson Mark Van Der Heever said they welcomed the allocation of these vaccines which the Minister indicated will be prioritised for health care workers.

’’We are working on a detailed roll-out strategy, which will be announced soon.“

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Cape Times

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