Premier Sihle Zikalala says vaccines secured for teachers ahead of KZN’s third wave
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DURBAN - AS KWAZULU-NATAL strives to accelerate the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out, the provincial government says that it will be vaccinating teachers from this week.
The move comes as concerns are raised about the safety of teachers amid the rise in Covid-19 infections across the country, and after the announcement that primary school and special needs pupils would return to full-time class attendance next month.
Speaking during a briefing in Durban yesterday, Premier Sihle Zikalala said that in addition to the 124 public and 18 private vaccination sites, a further 21 sites would be opened this week by the KZN Department of Health to accommodate teachers.
“Our main focus now is to accelerate vaccination and stay highly prepared, should a third wave hit us,” he said.
Zikalala said educators would start receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from June 9.
“We will be receiving 110 400 J&J vaccines for this category. We already have a database for these educators, which should make their vaccinations easier,” he said.
The teachers would be guided by management in their respective districts and circuits regarding which sites to go to, to get vaccinated, he said.
Zikalala said new sites would be opened in some districts where there were none, and that others would have to use existing sites to accommodate teachers.
“We’re also exploring the possibility of opening these vaccination sites on weekends because educators work Monday to Friday,” he said.
The premier added that the province was concerned by the high number of infections reported in some schools within the span of a few days.
Zikalala said on June 4, a school under Umzinyathi District reported that 16 pupils had tested positive with the virus, while another school under the Uthukela District had reported 15 positive cases among pupils.
He said the Department of Education would continue to implement Covid-19 protocols and provide necessary personal protective equipment and other forms of support.
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA’s chief executive in KZN, Thirona Moodley, said not only would teachers be vaccinated, but all personnel in the education sector including admin staff, support staff and groundsmen. She said it was a collaborative effort between the unions and the Basic Education Ministry to secure 500 000 doses of vaccine.
“All primary school learners are set to go to schools every day from July 26 and teachers need to feel safe and protected to be productive in the classrooms,” Moodley said, adding that teachers were front-line workers and needed to be a priority.
National Teachers Union general secretary Cynthia Barnes said detailed plans had not yet been provided to teachers, who were expecting more information regarding the roll-out per district today.
“They are still going to be verifying the vaccines to check if they can be used,” she said.
“Thereafter the department will be giving the database of teachers to the Health Department, and we don't know how long this is going to take for them to break it down by province and districts,” said Barnes.
Zikalala confirmed that KZN was not experiencing a third wave but appealed to the public to adhere to alert level 2 Covid-19 safety measures. “The province continues to observe an increase in the number of new cases recorded weekly, which is concerning,” he said.
Amajuba District was the only district to reach the alert line, with cases slightly increasing in the past three weeks. While eThekwini had not reached the alert level, the city had been reporting the highest number of cases, he said.
Dr Ridhwaan Suliman, a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said KZN was likely to be the last province to enter a third wave.
Suliman said while new cases were up 28% week-on-week, KZN still had the lowest case incidence among the provinces, but it was increasing and the rate of increase was large. KZN’s test positivity rate was also low, below 5%, but it too was increasing.