Covid-19 vaccine divide widens
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It was a tale of two parts of a city.
A massive drive to get people vaccinated ahead of the fourth wave, in contrast to a showdown with the police who tried to maintain control over irate anti-vaxxers.
In Mitchells Plain, three spheres of the government and health workers encouraged the masses to get vaccinated ahead of the fourth wave and to bolster efforts to jump-start the flailing economy.
In Sea Point, more than 500 anti-vaxxers gathered to advocate pro-choice.
The police and law enforcement authorities had their hands full as protesters carrying banners and posters – “Klaus Schwab (executive chairman of the World Economic Forum) is a vrot p***”, “No vax passport” and “No to the clot shot” – marched on the Promenade and made speeches.
Police tried more than once to fire the water cannon to disperse the rowdy protesters for failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols.
But struggled to get the faulty equipment to work.
The events, about 40km apart, took place at the same time.
And for brief periods it looked like bad weather would spoil both of them.
At Watergate Mall, near Mitchells Plain Hospital, the guest list at the Vooma: Save your summer vaccination campaign included: Cape Town mayor Dan Plato, Premier Alan Winde, head of health Keith Cloete and the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor.
They took turns at the microphone to drive home the importance of getting the jab to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
“If we don’t vaccinate at least 70% of our population, we become a danger to each other,” said Pandor.
Mitchells Plain resident Fernando Davids, 34, heeded the call, and received a first dose of the Pfizer jab.
He admitted he was hesitant initially.
“But because my family has already been vaccinated and I was the only one who didn’t get the jab, I decided to come.”
Davids encourage others to get vaccinated.
“Stop going after stories.
“Come and experience it for yourselves and you will see it is not like people say (with misinformation and fake news).”
As of yesterday nearly 400 people were in ICU or high care wards in the province’s hospitals – most of them on oxygen, most of them unvaccinated.
While that figure might be significantly lower than two weeks ago, it is still worrisome according a specialist in the Covid ward at Mitchells Plain Hospital Dr Jonathan Naude.
He has been in the front line of the fight against the deadly virus, since the hospital saw its first positive case in March last year.
He has since helped treat 4 500 patients inflicted with the virus, 600 of which have died.
At the peak of the third wave, the hospital had nearly 150 Covid patients.
Now only six remain.
“People would be waiting for a long time just to get a bed, because the hospital was so full.
“It was tough, it was hard and it was really difficult,” said Naude.
Lena George, who is in her early 50s, is currently the longest-staying patient in the ward. She has been here for nearly three months.
On oxygen, but still struggling to breathe, George said: “I came into hospital very sick.
“I didn’t know if I would survive.
“But thanks to the doctors and nurses and the medication I've been given, I have survived.”
George added: “I just want to tell people – go for your vaccine.
“It is very important. I didn't go for my vaccine because I was always too busy… Don’t go after stories. It is for your own health.
“People who do not want to get vaccinated must know this – they will pass the germ onto other people. And those people won't even know they have the germ.
“It makes me angry that people don’t want to go for the vaccine. Because the hospitals are overcrowded with people who have listened to other people (about not getting the jab) and don’t follow their hearts.”
A nurse taking care of George, Sister Christine Elias is also the operational manager at the hospital.
Her nursing career spans over 30 years.
She said: “The (coronavirus) waves and the peaks, it’s a high turnover of patients, death rates are up. It is an emotional journey.
“And you just wish the people outside can see inside (the Covid wards).”
Elias said: “There is a misconception. But when I see things like (anti-vaccination marches), I just wish they (protesters) can see how patients in hospital suffer.
“And that makes it hard for us when people say – there is no such thing as Covid. It is mind blowing to think that people at this point still don't know that Covid is here.”
Meanwhile, Naude appealed to those who oppose the jab, to think about their loved ones instead.
“The sadness for me, is that (the anti-vaxxers) are not necessarily admitted to hospital or die, but it is their parents, their grandparents, their loved ones, who might die from this disease.
“And a lot of these young people have a lot of influence over their parents.
“A lot of their parents ask them, what do you think I should do. And most of the parents we have here (in the Covid ward) say my child said I mustn’t get vaccinated.
“I thought I should, but my child said no.”
Meanwhile, in Sea Point a doctor also addressed the crowd in Sea Point.
Faiez Kirsten, who owns a practice in Rondebosch, denied the existence of the virus.
“There is no evidence to promote the existence of the virus called SARS-CoV-2. There are more than 150 doctors around the world that have confirmed that they have no such evidence,” he said.
He added: “There is no need for the wearing of masks, social distancing or for being vaccinated against any fictional virus.”
“There is no need for us to be carrying around a vaccine passport in any way, shape or form.”
Kirsten said they were gathering to oppose tyranny.
“Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God. Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants,” he said.
“We refuse to be ruled by tyrants,” he shouted as crowds chanted in agreement.
Kirsten said they would intensify their non-compliance campaign by protesting.
“We are going to continue to say no to the vaccine.”
As the protest ended, protesters warned that they would continue every weekend.