KZN Health department ready to vaccinate teachers while unions ask for clarity
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DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department said it was ready to start vaccinating education employees, but unions yesterday raised questions about the vaccines that were available, saying they wanted to be sure that teachers were given proper doses.
This was in reference to the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) eagerly awaited decision on whether to approve and release Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine doses, some of which are destined for South Africa. Over the weekend, teacher unions reported on the Department of Health’s plan to administer about 500000 J&J vaccines doses to educators and support staff.
The US FDA had put a hold on the shipment and delivery of the vaccine because of contamination concerns found at a US manufacturing plant.
According to national Department of Health deputy director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp, although the department remained hopeful that a plan to inoculate teachers will be implemented, it was unclear whether the FDA would give the final approval to release the vaccine doses. Speaking at the launch of the Covid-19 influencers programme in Durban yesterday, Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said: “As the department in KwaZulu-Natal, we are ready to implement the roll-out.”
The National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA KZN chief executive, Thirona Moodley, stressed yesterday that the union wanted clarity on which vaccine would be administered to education staff.
KZN secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union Nomarashiya Caluza also weighed in on the pending FDA decision on the J&J vaccine, saying the union wanted to be sure that teachers were given a proper vaccine.
She said the Education Department had not yet held a formal meeting with teacher unions and wanted a clear plan that would ensure that time was not lost, and all teachers got vaccinated.
“What we would like to know is whether the centres for the vaccination roll-out have been identified, are they accessible to teachers and are they properly equipped?”
Caluza said they would propose that schools in which teachers were getting vaccinated be closed on the day.
“The idea of rotating teachers has challenges because it means a small number of teachers would have to look after a large number of pupils,” she said.
National Teachers Union (Natu) acting president Sibusiso Malinga said the challenge had fallen on the Education Department to show that it was ready. Part of Natu’s concern was that the department had insisted that the vaccine would be given to those above the age of 40. This was a problem because some education staff had co-morbidities, and needed the vaccine.