Teacher Covid-19 vaccinations on hold in KZN amid ’discussions’
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Durban - DESPITE KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala announcing that the education sector will start getting vaccinated against Covid-19 from Wednesday, it remains unclear when teachers will start getting their jabs because discussions are ongoing.
Zikalala had said the KZN Health Department would open a further 21 new vaccination sites this week to accommodate the vaccination of teachers from June 9, and that they would also receive 110 400 Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines for the teachers. They already had a database for the teachers.
KZN Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the reason for not starting the vaccination of teachers and support staff was because there were discussions currently taking place between the Health and Education departments. Once the discussions were finalised, the joint programme would be pronounced.
“We should start very soon. As soon as the discussions have been finalised, so the plan is there... Basically it’s the logistical part of it, so it shouldn’t take a long time before we start this process,” said Mthethwa.
He said the unions were on board.
National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) KZN chief executive Thirona Moodley said they had been in discussions with the department for an extended period to ensure that teachers and other employees in the education sector received vaccinations before all primary school pupils returned to school on July 26.
The Health Ministry has allocated 500 000 J&J vaccines for the sector.
“Naptosa is happy to report that the logistics and planning with the Departments of Health and Education is well under way in this province. As a province, we want to be prepared and ready to vaccinate as soon as we get the go-ahead from the (US) Food and Drug Administration. However, presently we can only be optimistic that this go-ahead will be received in the next week or two.”
National Teachers Union (Natu) general secretary Cynthia Barnes said they were amazed that the Education and Health departments promised them they would be vaccinated from Wednesday, only to find issues with the vaccine.
“We wonder when our teachers will be vaccinated. The expiry date is soon, June 28. So we’re very worried about this,” said Barnes.
She said teachers were concerned about this and it might deter them from getting vaccinated.
“They are calling us and talking about the vaccine being contaminated,” said Barnes.
When Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu received his vaccination this week, he encouraged teachers to get vaccinated when the programme was rolled out for them, to avoid situations where schools were closed because of rising infections.
During her Basic Education Adjusted Budget vote speech for the 2021/22 financial year this week, Minister Angie Motshekga said with the full attendance of primary school pupils at the beginning of the third term, they would intensify compliance with non-pharmaceutical Covid-19 protocols and ensure that their teachers and support staff were prioritised for vaccination.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Health Department director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi said they would be “executing a ramped-up vaccination programme and running the national programmes” while being led by acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
He said this week a number of developments would be communicated in a public webinar.
Over 1 million people aged 60 years and above have been vaccinated under phase 2 of the roll-out.