DURBAN - KWAZULU-NATAL Health Head of Department Dr Sandile Tshabalala said the department was concerned about the more than 20 000 health workers in the province who had not been vaccinated.
Tshabalala said the department, which had a target of vaccinating 7.2 million people by December to reach herd immunity, had only managed 27% of the target so far and would be focusing on the front-line health workers.
“We want to find out what the myths are on vaccination and dismiss them, and arm them with knowledge to dismiss misinformation to the public. But the aim is to reach all government workers and understand their stance on refusing to vaccinate.
“What we are happy with is that when we compare March 5, 2020 with where we are with Covid-19 figures, we now have scientific data. It has been proven that those who have been vaccinated have a higher chance of survival.
“In Prince Mshiyeni, 36 000 people interact with one nurse in a month who has no idea about how many are infected. If you are not vaccinated as a nurse you would be exposed to all the different strains of Covid, and chances are you would then be exposed to a strain that may eventually kill you,” said Tshabalala.
Responding to the concerns of the Health Department, National Health and Allied Workers’ Union secretary-general Ayanda Zulu said there was a loss of trust between government and health workers that it needed to address.
Zulu said some health workers were resisting the Covid-19 vaccine initiative because their other requests, such as salary increases and transparency on the causes of death among those who had been vaccinated, had not been adequately addressed.
“They need to bridge the gap very quickly because health workers who are at the forefront are crucial to convince communities who are falling for the propaganda narrative on vaccines,” said Zulu.
Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu agreed that the government needed to lean more on trade unions to win over health and other state workers.
Shabangu said many trade union members had cited chronic diseases and religious reasons for their vaccine hesitancy.
He said the government needed to revive weekly engagements with trade unions. “We need to revive weekly co-ordinating committee meetings where we can address issues we hear from members on the ground. The initial success was based on regular interaction, which is now non-existent.”