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Elderly ready for Covid-19 jab

Dr Mayank Amin draws the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine at a clinic in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, in the US. Picture: REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Dr Mayank Amin draws the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine at a clinic in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, in the US. Picture: REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Published May 17, 2021

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DURBAN - PEOPLE aged 60 and over are expected to start getting their Covid-19 jabs in South Africa from on Monday.

The majority of them registered on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) which was launched in the middle of April and allowed all citizens aged 60 and older to register for a Covid-19 vaccination.

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It is believed that some received an SMS last week telling them where they would get vaccinated.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, funding in the case of insured individuals will be taken from their medical schemes and administered for free, while uninsured individuals will be funded by the government and the vaccination will also be free.

The chief executive of The Association for the Aged (Tafta), Femada Shamam, said 76% of residents and 58 caregivers at their Tafta homes had been registered to be vaccinated.

Shamam said they were happy to report that the majority of their elders had registered.

In addition, six of their nurses had completed Covid-19 vaccination training to assist Department of Health staff to administer the vaccine and had received their certificates of completion.

“Tafta staff did assist our elders to register using the EVDS portal. We sent all elders an SMS and erected posters explaining the process, and the homes’ staff asked those needing assistance to let them know. Staff then assisted those requiring help,” said Shamam.

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“Some are concerned about the vaccine’s interaction with chronic medication and others remain fearful of side effects. Unfortunately, despite efforts to have education campaigns run in our homes by the Department of Health and those responsible for the vaccination programme, we were unable to secure experts to answer some of their concerns.”

Shamam said they were informed that vaccinations would be conducted at Tafta sites. The Elder’s Voice KZN founder Joanne Herbst said they were ready to get their pensioners vaccinated when the roll-out began on Monday.

“Of our 131 residents, about 80% chose to get vaccinated and the rest chose not to, which is their right,” said Herbst.

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She said they had asked each of their residents if they wanted to get vaccinated and filled out the forms. Where residents could not decide on their own, their kin were contacted and the organisation was directed as to what steps to take and was able to fill in the forms on their behalf.

They had not received confirmation as yet but she believed that residents would be vaccinated on the premises.

Herbst added that they had an option to include their staff in the bulk registration and they included on the list those who wanted to get vaccinated.

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South Africans have been concerned about the country’s slow vaccination roll-out, with only 478 452 healthcare workers vaccinated by Saturday afternoon and the vaccination of the elderly only starting on Monday.

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for Africa said factors contributing to a slow rollout included a lack of funds, a shortage of trained professionals and hesitancy among the population to get the vaccine. In some countries, insufficient planning, including targeting priority groups and remote populations, was holding back the roll-out.

The WHO said health workers were easy to find in hospitals and clinics, yet older people and those with conditions that put them at risk of Covid-19 were not always easy to identify, particularly in remote areas.

Meanwhile, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, chairperson of the portfolio committee on health, expressed his concern after “chaotic” scenes played out at the Sisonke programme vaccination sites in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on Thursday.

Dhlomo said he was aware of teething challenges, especially when rolling out a large-scale project such as the vaccination programme, but “challenges needed to be addressed urgently to prevent any unintended consequences, similar to scenes witnessed”.

“We remain confident that the government, together with the private sector, can put in place adequate systems to ensure an efficient roll-out. But the committee will continue its heightened oversight to ensure that any challenge is resolved,” said Dhlomo.

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