Dr Samantha Potgieter, infectious disease expert at the Universitas Academic Hospital and affiliated lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of the Free State (UFS), was the first health-care worker to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the Free State.
Dr Samantha Potgieter, infectious disease expert at the Universitas Academic Hospital and affiliated lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of the Free State (UFS), was the first health-care worker to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the Free State.

Dr Samantha Potgieter takes first Covid-19 vaccine jab in the Free State

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Feb 19, 2021

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Johannesburg - Dr Samantha Potgieter was the first person to take a Covid-19 jab in the Free State province on Thursday.

Potgieter is an infectious disease expert at the Universitas Academic Hospital and an affiliated lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Cape Town nurse Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi became the first South African to receive the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at the Khayelitsha Hospital on Wednesday. She received her jab after a consignment of 80 000 doses arrived in the country on Tuesday night. She is a registered nurse and midwife.

Around the country, all provinces have rolled out the vaccine programme to health-care workers.

Dr Potgieter, who is working in the Covid-19 ward at the Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein, said she was happy she had received the vaccine and that it had arrived in the province.

“I am grateful to Dr Nicholas Pearce and his team for setting up this vaccine station for us at the Universitas Hospital,” she said. “The idea was to vaccinate a few people to make sure everything is in place. To check our systems, to make sure we can safely vaccinate others. It’s extremely important to vaccinate health-care workers. Not only are we trying to protect our health-care workers from occupational exposure to Covid-19 – and they are obviously at high risk of occupational exposure – but you also want to preserve a workforce,” said Potgieter.

Pearce, the head of Surgery at the UFS and also the head of the Free State province’s Covid-19 Task Team, said they were rolling out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of a 3B clinical trial, as the vaccine has not yet been registered with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).

“It’s vital to vaccinate health-care workers to prevent staff members from getting ill and dying. So, it’s a critical process, as all health-care workers are key people we have to protect in terms of the fight against Covid-19,” said Pearce.

Free State Health MEC Montseng Tsiu, who also took a vaccine jab on Wednesday, said nursing students would also be part of the vaccination process, along with healthcare workers.

He said it would be important to not only vaccinate health-care workers working directly in Covid-19 wards, but to vaccinate all health-care workers so that we can provide an ongoing service to the community.

Mondli Mvambi, spokesperson for the Free State Department of Health, said Tsiu and his head of department, Dr David Motau, both took the vaccine on Thursday.

“These leaders of Health in the Free State encouraged health-care workers to voluntarily enlist to be vaccinated as part of the national drive to build herd immunity.

“Building a herd immunity in the Free State means that 67% of the population, which is 1.9 million of the 2.9 million in the Free State, will be vaccinated to ensure that they are safe from getting the virus,” Mvambi said.

Meanwhile, the National Control Laboratory for Biological Products (NCL), which is based at the UFS and is a full member of the international World Health Organization (WHO)-National Control Laboratory Network for Biologicals and one of 12 laboratories worldwide contracted to perform vaccine testing for the WHO, received the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccines earlier this month.

“Because the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still in the trial phase and has not yet been registered, it did not follow the same process as the AstraZeneca vaccine. The NCL is also the only vaccine-testing laboratory in the country that performs the final quality-control testing of all human vaccine batches marketed in South Africa on behalf of Sahpra.

“In its role as a vaccine-testing laboratory for the WHO, the NCL helps to ensure that the vaccines purchased through the WHO prequalification programme for international distribution to resource-limited countries meet the high standards of quality, safety, and efficiency,” said a spokesperson for the university.

IOL

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