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Hospital group trains vaccinators as healthcare workers await details of how to get jabs

'If guidelines are followed, all will be fine' - SA Medical Association on vaccine rollout

02 February 2021 - 06:00 By Shonisani Tshikalange and Iavan Pijoos
Some health-care workers say they are still in the dark on the vaccine distribution plan. Stock photo.
Some health-care workers say they are still in the dark on the vaccine distribution plan. Stock photo.

If all the guidelines in place for the implementation of the vaccine rollout are followed strictly, it will be a success.

This is according to the SA Medical Association (Sama) on Monday.

The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in the country on Monday afternoon, with the initial doses earmarked for health-care workers on the front line of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

The government said as part of the mass vaccination plan it would launch a digital database to enrol and assist those receiving Covid-19 shots.

Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said on Monday that the national health department had certain guidelines on the implementation of the vaccine to each of the provinces. The aim, she said, was to vaccinate at least 500 people a day.

“The programme itself is not bad. If they follow the guidelines, it should be fine,” said Coetzee.

She said the department had also demonstrated how the registration of the database would work, but said the electronic system was not yet active. She said it would likely go live on Wednesday.

She urged those who book for the vaccine not to be late for appointments.

Coetzee also warned that people who had Covid-19 in the past six months would not qualify for the vaccine.

Last week, at a webinar with other medical experts, health minister Zweli Mkhize said those eligible for a vaccine dose would register on the online system. This would then be recorded and they would be reminded about the dates for their second shots.

Health workers, who are most at risk, have been prioritised under the first phase of the rollout.

Registering is a precondition for vaccination and includes providing medical aid information for those who have private insurance. A post-vaccination care and support team will monitor if anyone experiences adverse effects after the injection, said Mkhize.

Gudani Tshivhi, a nurse from a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, said there was still no clear information on how health-care workers would receive the vaccine.

“For now, we don’t know how this vaccine thing is going to work. According to the minister, the first batch of vaccine is arriving, but they haven’t told us how and when we will be vaccinated. There are no policies or protocol of how this whole process will happen."

A nurse from Pretoria, Phumudzo Mbedzi, said she was exhausted — but optimistic that the vaccine might be just what the country needed.

“I am tired. I sometimes feel like the vaccine will help and sometimes I feel like it will bring its own effect. So right now, just because we are constantly scared, we feel like maybe it will be a solution as we have nothing to help us. I think just because we are on the front line, they want to protect us. That is why they want to start with us,” she said.

A doctor who asked to remain anonymous said they had not received any information regarding the rollout of the vaccine in the health sector.

“The only time I hear about the rollout of the vaccine is on radio,” the doctor said.

Like Sama, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) confirmed that the online database to register for the vaccine was not “up and running” yet.

Denosa spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo said no-one would be forced to register for the vaccine, but urged health-care workers to do so.

“All will benefit from this first phase of vaccination,” said Delihlazo.

Private hospital group Life Healthcare said while Covid-19 patient numbers were stabilising in many regions across the country, a collective approach was needed towards the rollout of the vaccine.

Life Healthcare said its executive management had set up an internal “vaccine task team” to make sure that a operational plan was in place for its South African operations.

“As a private hospital collective, we realise the need to be ready for phase 1 [of the vaccination rollout] by early February 2021. To meet this deadline, the vaccine task team has been hard at work internally as well as helping the government to prepare ... both at the national and provincial levels,” said Peter Wharton-Hood, the group's CEO.

The private hospital group said to date they had engaged with the health department and the health-care industry regarding the plan, and started training employees to administer the vaccination to front-line healthcare workers.

It has also started the development of its own vaccine recipient list, master facilities list and list of vaccinators who either are already trained or will be trained to administer the shot.

The group said the strictest security protocols are being put in place at facilities in which the vaccine will be stored.