Education employees queue for Covid jabs, but some may have to wait a little longer

The Covid-19 third wave gripping parts of South Africa saw more than 11 000 new infections on Tuesday, bringing the active cases nationwide to nearly 120 000. The number of deaths increased by 297, bringing that toll close to 60 000. 

The voluntary basic education vaccination programme started on Wednesday. It aims to vaccinate about 582 000 teachers and other employees over a two-week period. 

But the Western Cape will start its vaccination programme on Friday at 29 vaccination sites, the provincial education department said on Tuesday. 

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga described the initiative as an “opportunity to normalise schooling and begin the process of mitigating the impact of Covid-19”.

The department’s acting director general, Granville Whittle, sent out a communication on Tuesday, outlining those eligible to receive a jab. Teachers appointed by the department or school governing bodies and in the independent school sector, together with the department’s appointed administration staff and non-teaching staff such as drivers, cleaners and security guards and residency staff can be vaccinated. They will receive the single shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. 

Those eligible for a vaccine do not need to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) because the department of basic education and health will facilitate registrations. 

But people who have contracted Covid-19 in the past 30 days, have already had a vaccination or have had a flu shot in the past 14 days will not be queuing at vaccination sites, said Whittle. 

Excluding these categories are precautionary measures practiced globally, said Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases specialist at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform. 

He said the two-week interval between having the Covid-19 vaccine and having had a flu vaccine is recommended until further data is available on whether taking the two vaccines together “could affect the immune response to either flu or SARS-CoV-2”.

The waiting period between contracting Covid-19 and getting its vaccine is two-fold: “There is no urgency to give [a] vaccine as there should be natural immunity, and partly that we don’t want confusion between vaccine side-effects and clinical deterioration of Covid-19,” said Lessells. 

People can get vaccinated 14 days after receiving a flu vaccine or four weeks after contracting Covid-19.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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