It’s almost a month since the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign started on 17 May. Members of Parliament over the age of 60 are among the 5 million people in this category who qualify to be vaccinated.
The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lechesa Tsenoli, and Health Committee Chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo have been encouraging other MPs over the age of 60 to register to be vaccinated.
On Monday, Dhlomo had his chance to receive his first dose in his home town of Mbumbulu in KwaZulu-Natal.
“I got vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine on the 7th of June and today on the 11th of June, I am doing oversight visit in Gauteng. I feel ok. I have never had any side effects. Even on the same day of my vaccination, I drove myself home. I am encouraging all those who are 60 years and above to go for all those life-saving interventions by the Department of Health.”
Dhlomo is encouraging those who experience side effects from the vaccine to act quickly. “If you do feel any symptoms of dizziness, tiredness, itchiness of the body, report those as soon as you can. Otherwise, I feeling great. I am visiting sights here in Gauteng. I am actually happy that I got vaccinated in the most rural part of Kwazulu Natal called Mbumbulu. And we are grateful to the Department that continues to give us support, even in other rural parts of the country despite the challenges of this vaccine. Go for it; you will be saved.”
Tsenoli was vaccinated at a Cape Town hospital on Wednesday morning. “Today is my second morning following getting the vaccination, and I am feeling great. I went there confident that I could handle a needle, which is one thing that I don’t fear. I do acupuncture, so the needle does not scare me anyway. So, it’s been great that the Department of Health has been rolling out this programme in the way it does throughout the country. And that I personally have now gotten it, has somewhat lifted my confidence. I didn’t actually realise that I was anxious to get it. Now that I got it I feel upbeat and it’s been great. I haven’t felt anything untoward that I can’t handle.”
The Deputy Speaker says he is happy to contribute towards the much-needed population immunity in the fight against COVID-19.
“I wish others can have the courage to go ahead and do it as well. It is necessary to at least take the first step as a preventative step, so that the second one when it comes, must add to the immunity my body requires to withstand any attack on the virus. At my age, I need my health to be the best it can be and I guess also that I contribute to general immunity in the population.”
Tsenoli says he is one of the high-risk vulnerable groups. “I do have comorbidity but I am glad that some of the colleagues have done so too. A friend also sent me a message from Durban. He went to the church in the neighbourhood which was used as a base. He too was very excited when he sent me the message and appreciated the settings in the province in Umlazi in different places for the over 60, to be able to go and get their injections next to where they live. It’s a great initiative, I think. It makes for the necessity to combat the disease so that we can get as close to living our normal lives as we can. However, we need to be patient. This requires as many of us to (vaccinate).”
Tsenoli also reflected on those who knowingly spread the coronavirus. “Two people were fired. Their case was that they knowingly went to places of work with COVID-19 and therefore this was dangerous to other people they worked with. The court found against them and so decided that the employer was within their right to fire them. So we have to be conscious that there are consequences for acting irresponsibly when we do know we have COVID to go and join crowds and other places where we should not be and thus spreading the virus. It’s dangerous, it’s not worth it. Not all of us have the health ability to withstand disease and so we place many people at risk. It’s a simple human action when we comply with the restrictions of staying out of crowds and limiting any interaction with a broad big numbers of people. It is also appropriate that we sanitise, wash our hands and ensure that we keep our masks,- covering our noses which is not what usually happens in certain instances. But largely many people do comply and it’s great.”
DA National Spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube says some of the party’s 23 MPs who are over the age of 60 have also been vaccinated.
“Many of them are looking forward to getting their jabs and they are looking forward to leading by example by getting their jabs. A number of them have already had their first jab and will be waiting to get their second jabs as part of the vaccinations process. It is once again disappointing that the vaccination process is not as fast as it should be, simply because we know that it is the only way that we can cushion ourselves against the impact of the third wave and we encourage all people who are over the age of 60, who are health care-workers to get their vaccinations as quickly as possible as quickly as they can.”
Other Members of Parliament over the age of 60 who have registered to be vaccinated, include United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa, Congress of the People (Cope) leader, Mosioua Lekota and former Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Holomisa says he is still waiting to receive his notification. “I confirm that I did register for vaccination last month. But up to date, nobody has contacted me to advise me as to when must I go for vaccination. Remember that people my age have been declared endangered species but the government is failing us. I don’t know whether we should organise a Toyi-Toyi so that they can hear us as people over 60 years because this is a government that normally listens when people burn tyres and Toyi-Toyi. Maybe we should consider that.”
Lekota says he has also not yet received any notification and Prince Buthelezi’s office says he has not yet been vaccinated. 92-year-old Buthelezi has fully recovered after testing positive for COVID-19 last year.