Union questions 'slow start' to phase two of Covid-19 vaccine rollout

'We are losing lives and the healthcare workers are on the front line. They are not just statistics.'

17 May 2021 - 20:29
At the age of 103, Maria Lekiti gets vaccinated by Sister Ramatsobane Mahlangu at the Munsieville Care for the Aged home in Krugersdorp in phase two of the vaccine rollout targeted at the elderly.
At the age of 103, Maria Lekiti gets vaccinated by Sister Ramatsobane Mahlangu at the Munsieville Care for the Aged home in Krugersdorp in phase two of the vaccine rollout targeted at the elderly.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

The South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institution Union (Saptu) said though they wanted to believe the second phase of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout would be successful, they did not believe health minister Zwele Mkhize when he said its slow start was a choice.

Saptu general secretary advocate Ben van der Walt said on Monday evening: “Even though we want to believe that the ambitious rollout plan will be successful, we cannot ignore the slow rate of progress up to now.

“This is very worrying for our members at the National Health Laboratory Services who are essential workers on the front line of the pandemic.”

Saptu was cautious about the second phase, which started on Monday, in light of the increasing likelihood of a third wave of infections gripping SA.

Van der Walt said only 480,000 of the 1.18m healthcare workers had been vaccinated since February.

“According to Discovery Medical Scheme, these workers are at 4.8 times greater risk of severe infection and death than the rest of the population.”

The remaining 700,000 health workers will be vaccinated with the elderly and people with comorbidities.

“We are, however, not sure if we should believe health minister Zweli Mkhize noting the slow start was a choice.

“Is it not perhaps an easy way to cover up for failing to vaccinate to the original schedule? The minister should never lose [sight] that we are losing lives and the healthcare workers are on the front line. They are not just statistics.”

Saptu ended its statement by saying they would keep an eye on the progress of the second phase and hoped an increased number of vaccination sites would lead to greater success in administering all of the doses.​

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