'We don’t want to work against parents': Gauteng government wants children to get vaccinated at schools

18 October 2021 - 16:10
Children who are eligible to be vaccinated will be allowed to get their jabs in schools, says Gauteng premier David Makhura. Stock photo.
Children who are eligible to be vaccinated will be allowed to get their jabs in schools, says Gauteng premier David Makhura. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Katarzyna Białasiewicz

Gauteng premier David Makhura says his government is working on a programme that will allow children to be vaccinated at schools.

“We are going to use the schools as sites for vaccination. We are urging parents to consent. We don’t want to work against parents,” Makhura said at a media briefing held in Dobsonville, Soweto on Monday.

He encouraged parents to go with their children when they go to vaccinate at designated sites.

“We have a responsibility as parents to ensure that our children are safe. I don’t understand why parents should not be involved in the vaccination of their children. Let’s take our children to vaccinate. I am relieved the window has been opened for children to get vaccinated,” said Makhura.

“People need to be convinced it is the right thing to do to get their children vaccinated. We don’t want to do anything by force.

“As a parent myself, I am very happy. Let’s take the steps to beat this pandemic. We want to encourage vaccination because we want to bring back a level of normality.” 

Health minister Joe Phaahla announced last week that children between the ages of 12 and 17 years would be eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations from Wednesday, saying this could be done without parents’ consent. The age group accounts for about 6-million people.

“It would be good to vaccinate at least half of them between the school holidays and the end of exams,” said acting director-general Nicholas Crisp.

Makhura said the provincial government had chosen to do the media briefing in Dobsonville because the township had a low number of vaccinated people.

“For us to reach a level we are comfortable with, we need to vaccinate at least 700,000 people. Currently, 400,000 people have been vaccinated [in the township].”

Makhura said townships were lagging behind in terms of vaccinating, with the south of Johannesburg having the lowest number of people who have been inoculated.

“Our townships are lagging behind Alex, [which] is not doing badly. Diepsloot and Cosmo city are doing better. We are not doing too well in the south.”

Johannesburg, according to Makhura, has 1.1-million people who have been fully vaccinated.

“It’s a good indication of progress,” he said.

Gauteng has administered 5.3-million vaccines in total. Of the number, 3.6-million were single-dose vaccinations.

Makhura explained that the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, which is a single dose, was taken to rural areas.

“We get a lot of people who ask for J&J. We have 4-million people registered on the EVDS, but we have a full 1-million who have only taken their first doses.

“Our vaccination sites are running well. There should not be people who are worried about queues.”

He said he was worried there were people who had taken their first dose who were not enthusiastic to turn up for their second dose.

“We want to appeal to those to come back for their second doses,” Makhura said.

 “We have mobile and pop-up sites that continue to do work. Wherever we go, the first thing is whether people are vaccinated and wearing their masks. We cannot afford during the elections campaign to slow down on vaccinations. We want to reach more people. We are making the vaccine available, but people are not turning up.”

He said the government was hoping to vaccinate 70% of the total Gauteng population and that millions more needed to be reached.

According to Makhura, the retail sector was lagging behind in terms of staff members who have been vaccinated.

“People say they do not have time to go out and vaccinate. The finance and mining sectors are doing well.”