Gauteng old age homes sceptical about getting Covid-19 vaccine
While the elderly have largely been the face of the novel coronavirus, many senior citizens at old age homes in Gauteng are sceptical about receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
The lives of those at these facilities across the province have been disrupted over the past year as different levels of lockdown restrictions were imposed in a desperate bid to contain the spread of the virus.
This has meant those at retirement homes have spent months in isolation, away from their loved ones and with little to no social or extra curricular activities.
But as the nation has already kicked off its unprecedented country-wide vaccination campaign, those over the age of 65 are among those who are next in line to receive the jab after it is administered to health care workers.
“I would say that right now between our residents and staff, 70% are against taking the vaccine,” Pieter Smit, the manager at Tuiste Vir Bejaardes & Goue Jare Aftree-oord in Nigel told The Saturday Star this week.
He explained that part of their apprehension towards the vaccine was that he believed that they could not yet be trusted.
He said the country’s decision to cancel the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month after a study revealed concerns about the jab’s ability to offer protection against severe Covid-19 deaths or hospitalisation, was an example of their angst.
“We are worried about the legitimacy of these vaccines and the side effects.”
Smit added that they will not force any of their residents to take the vaccine when it eventually becomes available to them but hopes that more information will persuade them to reconsider.
“One of our nurses has already conducted training for administering the vaccine and she is very positive about it so maybe she will pass this sentiment on.
While Smit welcomed the notion of increased freedom for all at his facility following the roll-out of the jab, he said that there is no guarantee that this will even be the case.
“There is no guarantee that our lives will go back to normal once we get the vaccine and we don’t even know when that is going to happen so we are not getting ahead of ourselves.”
Meanwhile, not all those at The Soweto Home for the Aged are counting down the days until they receive their shots.
“The news about the vaccines has been met with mixed emotions by both our staff and our senior residents at our facility,” social worker Khutsi Ledwaba said.
“Some of our senior residents are very excited about their lives returning to normalcy and to see family and friends and get out again, but others are scared of the side effects and the speed in which the vaccine was created.
“Even our staff members can’t agree on the vaccine but there are some that are very excited about getting it because they had to be so careful and even when they weren't at work, to not bring the virus here and infect our senior citizens,” said Ledwaba.
But for some senior citizens, their mental state has meant that they are unable to make their mind up about the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Our residents are looking forward to getting the vaccine and about not living in such fear but some of them are so old that they don’t even understand what is going on,” Johnny Gselabamikloa from Friendship Haven Old Age Home in Randfontein said.
The arrival of the coronavirus vaccine is also not being eagerly awaited at Dominican Sisters Marian House in Boksburg, which has not yet had a single case of Covid-19 since the virus began rapidly spreading in the country about a year ago.
“Many of our residents have not been exposed to the virus and don’t even know anyone who got it or has died from it,” sister Rebecca Malefetse said.
“We have implemented very strict Covid-19 protocols since the virus arrived in the country so I think that went a long way to protect our senior residents and staff. Many of our residents are also very old and don’t really leave the premises even before the coronavirus.”
Malefetse said many of them are still undecided about getting the jab and believes that they still have time to make their minds up.
“Getting the vaccine will depend on many things and maybe once it is here it will be easier to decide but many of us are worried about the possible side effects.”
But for those at The Kensington Gardens retirement home, they can’t get the jab soon enough.
“We are very excited about the vaccine and we have already started getting resident’s details and registering them on the government website,” Luisa Maranda, marketing manager at the Flower foundation which owns Kensington Gardens explained.
She believes that the jab will bring certainty to the lives of all those at the facility, as the past year has been challenging and scary.
“It has been a very frustrating time and we can’t wait to have some sort of normalcy and certainty back.”