SAPTU is concerned about the second phase of the mass Covid-19 vaccination programme, which started today, in light of the increasing likelihood of a third wave gripping the country.
“Even though we want to believe that the ambitious roll-out plan will be successful, we cannot ignore the slow rate of progress up to now,” says Adv Ben van der Walt, the general secretary of SAPTU (South African Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union). “This is very worrying for our members at the NHLS who are essential workers on the front line of the pandemic.”
Last week, the department of health confirmed that only 480 000 of the 1,18 million healthcare workers had been vaccinated since February this year. 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 remaining health workers will now be vaccinated concurrently 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,” says Adv Van der Walt. “Is it not perhaps an easy way to cover up for failing to vaccinate to the original schedule? The minister should never lose sight of the fact that we are losing lives and that the health care workers are on the front line. They are not just statistics.”
SAPTU will be keeping an eye on the progress of the second phase and hope that the increased number of vaccination sites will lead to greater success in administering the 62 million doses.