Education department happy with vaccine rollout – even in Eastern Cape

According to the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape they have vaccinated over 630,000 people in the education sector in the province. Archive photo by Lilita Gcwabe.

The department of basic education in the Eastern Cape and nationally claims that Covid vaccination programme in the sector is going well.

The small glitches that reportedly caused the slow rollout of the vaccination programme for the Eastern Cape’s Department of Basic Education (DBE) are now a thing of the past.

The department credits the creative strategies it employed for overcoming vaccine hesitancy. According to Malibongwe Mtima, the provincial DBE spokesperson, “We employed the use of the cellphone SMS system, electronic media, and print media to persuade them to vaccinate. And in the light of that we were able to overcome such issues. And we do not wish for any other problems to appear again.

“It is our see everyone getting inoculated before the schools opening and we call on all our people to co-operate with us and the health department in this juncture to vaccinate.

“That is the only way we can do to fortify ourselves against this ongoing pandemic. Hence we got the images of our MECs published in the media when they got vaccinated, we wished to get them to lead by example, to show to everyone that it is what we are all required to do.”

Some people rejected the recently launched programme on religious grounds or concerns that it will make them sick. Other problems occurred after the provincial health department turned away personnel appointed by school governing bodies (SGB) as they failed to appear on the DBE’s database.

Mtima said with programme they expected people to register 24-hours before visiting their local health centres. The programme for the education sector began on June 23 and has been extended to July 31 with all vaccinations being recorded on the Electronic Vaccination Data System.

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Sizwe Kupelo, the Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson said they recently vaccinated 54,000 departmental staff and 630,000 people in the education sector in the province. “Everything went smoothly except one case of an elder woman from Mdantsane who tried to commit fraud by vaccinating for a second time after she got inoculated in Limpopo recently. But we got that traced and resolved through the help of the police.”

Siphiwo Pupuma, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) organiser for the Eastern Cape said they did not experience problems such as resistance or reports of teachers who falling sick after being vaccinated.  

Nommiselo Lubelu, a leader from Sidebene Ngomntana Early Childhood Development Organisation with over 2,000 members in the Eastern Cape, said she and members of her organisation had participated keenly in the vaccination programme. ”I did it yesterday, everything is fine. I did not get the dizziness, flu or the headache some people claimed to have suffered from after they got inoculated.  

“I even got well encouraged to drive more people to get vaccinated after I received an SMS informing us that the date had been extended to July 30.

Lubelu stressed how important it is for everyone to be vaccinated but staff of early childhood development centres especially: “Remember that as we deal with young babies some as young as two or three months sometimes so we gotta keep them safe and protected from these illnesses.” 

Nontsapho Mtshisa, a 49-year-old owner of the Mustard Seed Daycare Centre in Ncera, outside East London, complained about an attacking headache and body pains she suffered after she took the single, Johnson & Johnson jab on Thursday. She used painkillers to get through the pain and did not report her reactions to a medical facility.

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“However I will continue to inspire others to get the vaccine because it is the only medicine we have for this virus, and I have also encouraged my younger sister to vaccinate this morning too. I believe that I will recover soon because I have woken up today, perhaps it was just the way my body reacted to the injection,” she said.

An elderly school principal from Mdantsane reportedly rejected the Covid-19 vaccine after expressing fear for his health. This followed the illness of his elder brother, whom he claimed had never got sick in his whole life, after he was given the jab recently.

In her address to the media, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, commended the performance of the department: “The sector had targeted 582,000 personnel in the basic education sector; and when we formally closed the vaccination programme, we recorded 517,000 people who have received the vaccines – an 89% vaccination success rate. Reports on the reasons for outstanding numbers include distance to vaccination sites, vaccination hesitancy, preference of one type of vaccine to another, recent positive Covid-19 results, as well as medical and religious reasons, all account for some of the people, who are still not vaccinated,” said Motshekga.

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