CAPE TOWN - More than 8 000 health-care workers in the province remain unvaccinated against Covid-19.
Provincial health department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said there were 34 407 health workers in the province, including both clinical and administrative staff and, as at October 14, 26 278 staff had been vaccinated.
Van der Heever said the balance of the staff “have not yet taken up vaccination”.
“There does not seem to be one specific cause for not being vaccinated, but through various research the public has identified misinformation about the vaccine as influencing their decision to be vaccinated. This also applies to health staff as well.
“We have vaccinated more than 70% of all staff in all categories, except in the admin staff category (64.1%) ,” Van der Heever said.
He added that vaccination remained voluntary and that the department was in regular engagement to encourage staff who had not been vaccinated, to do so.
A paramedic who asked to remain anonymous, said he was against the Covid-19 vaccine from the onset of the pandemic.
“I feel the vaccine was rushed and not sufficiently tested, as the world is looking for a cure.”
The worker said there had been rumours circulating that they would be obligated to take up vaccination.
“For now it is just speculation. I feel disappointed in our government because our president said that no one will be forced to go for the vaccine, and yet you hear this kind of story. I mean, can I afford to lose my job? No, I can't. I have a family to look after, so what's my next step?” he asked.
The South African Medical Association, however, said after witnessing three waves of Covid-19 infections, they supported the requirement for universal vaccination of health-care workers.
“Health-care workers should by now have experienced three waves. Knowing the difficulties experienced during these waves, for them to still refuse taking the vaccines makes no sense. As doctors we have a moral obligation to do as much as we can to overcome vaccine hesitancy, and if you as a doctor are not vaccinated, how can you then expect the public to vaccinate?,” asked Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee.
"SAMA supports the requirement for universal vaccination of health workers and urges all health-care professionals to get vaccinated. This type of approach is already in place for many other conditions, such as Hepatitis B and influenza.“
She added that the benefits of vaccination could not be overstated, “to the extent that it would almost certainly be constitutionally permissible to mandate Covid-19 vaccination in particular circumstances”.
“It would involve a balancing exercise, but the applicable rights would be reasonably and justifiably limited in terms of section 36 of the Constitution, since the public health argument is so compelling. This might lead to health-care workers not vaccinated needing to submit every 72 hours, or once weekly, depending on the policy of the organisation, a negative PCR test at their own cost.”
Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) said they encouraged vaccination, but were also in support of the freedom of choice.
“While we encourage our members to vaccinate, Hospersa is opposed to any victimisation of workers who may refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on religious, medical or constitutional grounds,” spokesperson Kevin Halama said.
Meanwhile, clinical psychologist in the School of Clinical Medicine at the University of the Free State Angie Vorster said the 5C model, which includes confidence, complacency, constraints, calculation and collective responsibility, was helpful in understanding why people would refuse or resist vaccination.
“The first aspect is confidence – the extent to which the person trusts that the vaccine is safe, and will in fact do what it is said to do. Another factor is the number of constraints that individuals face in accessing the vaccine. If there are many barriers (e.g. unable to afford transport to the vaccination site, unable to take time off work, etc.) in terms of the calculation of costs versus benefits, obviously it would be easier to delay or refuse vaccination,” she said.
“Having a sense of collective responsibility and altruism are important characteristics in those who submit to vaccination. People who refuse vaccination tend to be more individualistically orientated, and less motivated by the greater good of all, than by their own personal preferences.”