Frustrations boil over SA’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan

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Bongani Siziba

Johannesburg – Every thirty minutes funeral parlours are inundated with calls to pick up bodies at different health institutions and undertakers have been tottering on the brink trying to keep themselves and their families safe from the deadly virus.

And when the Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced that frontline workers would be the first to be vaccinated, undertakers rejoiced.

“That was a huge relief to know that there was at least some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Davie Mlilo, the executive director of Sisonke Funeral Services.

But this joy was short-lived as undertakers and teachers were to soon learn that they were both not included on the list of the first beneficiaries. They were not included in the fine print.

“This is a huge disappointment for us as undertakers. Why are we not considered when we are the ones who dispose of bodies of people who would have died of Covid-19? We are the last of the front-line workers and I don’t know why we are excluded.” Mlilo said.

Nolubuhle Mhlanga, an educator in the Westrand is also disappointed that teachers have been left out.

“Leaving teachers out is a real failure. It is a missed opportunity for the government to do something right. We are frontline workers and the government must consider us,” she said.

In a statement last week, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore she said: “The virus has wreaked havoc on children’s education around the globe. Vaccinating teachers is a critical step towards putting it back on track.”

As part of the government’s vaccine strategy, the frontline health workers will get access to the vaccine first, said Mkhize.

Mkhize said the Health Department would roll out the vaccine in phases as follows:

Phase 1: Frontline Health Workers

Phase 2: Essential workers and persons with comorbidities.

“We are all mindful of the urgency. We all have personal anxiety. We all want to know at which point we can be safe from this pandemic,” Mkhize said.

With the first covid-19 vaccine jabs beginning to roll out early February according to Mkhize, South Africa has announced plans to reach two thirds of the population once the doses reach its shores.

The country is hoping to secure direct deals with manufactures by February. Shots of the Covax vaccine are expected by the second quarter of 2021. COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to Cvid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic

As confirmed by president Cyril Ramaphosa in his latest national address, South Africa has completed all necessary processes towards acquiring a vaccine from India and are part of the Covax, the health organization’s suitable vaccine distribution scheme, which aims to provide 2 billion doses by end of 2021.

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