Vaccination of teachers, support staff hits 105 000 mark
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Cape Town - The vaccination of thousands of education sector workers got under way this week with over 105 000 people having been inoculated across various vaccination centres.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the sector is targeting 580 000 teachers, including support staff, to get vaccinated in 10 to 14 days.
A total of 300 000 Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccination shots have been earmarked for the sector by the department of health so far.
On Friday, the Basic Education Department said 49 776 people were vaccinated on Wednesday and 55 444 were inoculated on Thursday.
The Health Department said on Friday that more vaccination doses had arrived and will be allocated to the sector.
KwaZulu-Natal was leading the pack in terms of vaccinations with 32.1% of the target population having received the jab.
The Eastern Cape follows with 21%, Free State at 21.9%, Mpumalanga at 26% and the North West with 22%.
The slowest vaccination is the Northern Cape at 12% and Gauteng at 11%.
The targeting of the basic education sector follows rising cases being reported in schools of learners and teachers testing positive for the coronavirus.
In some instances, rising positive cases have led to schools being closed for days.
The teaching sector was largely impacted by the risk-adjusted lockdown which came into effect last year and led to weeks of lost schooling.
It is envisioned that with the sector being targeted, further delays to the schooling year could be avoided.
Teacher unions said generally, members expressed support for the vaccination drive.
Unions such as Sadtu, Naptosa and others surveyed members to gauge their willingness.
Over 75% of teachers had expressed their willingness to get vaccinated.
“We did a joint survey with other teacher unions which showed that 75% of those who took part in the survey indicated that they want to take the vaccine.
“Others showed reluctance,” Nomusa Cembi, Sadtu spokesperson said.
Sadtu has more than 260 000 members in the sector.
Basil Manuel, from Naptosa, said following the Johnson & Johnson debacle – where the US FDA ordered that some doses had to be terminated, some members had come forward expressing concerns about the safety of the vaccine.
“The J&J hiccup and did have an impact on the comfort people had.
“We have had some questions about the safety and questions on whether we are sure about those that were not supposed to be dumped,” Manuel said.
Cynthia Barnes, from Natu, also spoke to a few concerns over reluctance from some teachers.
Barnes said, overall, many were ready and willing to take the jab.
Health expert Dr Aslam Dasoo, from the Progressive Health Form, said the start of this targeted vaccination programme could signal that the education sector can hope to preserve the schooling year.
“The problem with the anxious teaching sector, it is important really to give them a measure of comfort.
“The academic year is at risk, and we may lose it if it put at further risk,” Dasoo said.
With a target of 580 000 inoculations, Dasoo said it was achievable because vaccination sites were up and ready.
“If you are hitting about 90 000 (inoculations) a day nationally, then 500 000 should be very doable.
“One hopes they get it done because what it means is that as soon as the teachers get vaccinated then the schooling system is secured.
“We can then focus elsewhere,” he said.
The vaccination of teachers and support staff comes as the country is gripped by a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday in Cape Town, while answering media questions, that the National Coronavirus Command Council would have to meet and possibly discuss stricter measures to curb rising infections.
“Infections are rising and that calls on us to review where we are. We will be making an assessment,” Ramaphosa said.
Gauteng was the most affected province and makes up the bulk of new Covid-19 infections, with the latest infections numbers surpassing the two previous waves.