Healthcare workers in Gauteng have expressed mixed emotions about the temporary halting of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the country.

The comments come in the wake of a Wits and Oxford University study which has found that the AstraZeneca vaccine did not provide significant protection against mild to moderate COVID-19, which is caused by the new variant currently dominant in South Africa.

One million doses of the vaccine which expire in April arrived from the Serim Institute of India last week.

Mixed reaction

The decision by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mhize to temporarily halt the rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been received with mixed reaction from health workers across the country.

Being on the frontline of fighting COVID-19, healthcare workers were expected to be the first to receive the vaccine.

While some workers are disappointed, others want due process to be followed before an effective vaccine is rolled out. They have weighed in on the delays.

“High hopes that at least the vaccine is here and finally we are going to get vaccinated. Now, they telling us that they cannot give it to us, it’s on hold until further notice, So really it’s disappointing,” says a healthcare worker.

“Not at all concerned because the right processes need to be followed. The people that are making the decisions, if we trust them, that when the vaccine is right. It will work – we will get it when it’s right for us. It’s actually quite dangerous when it’s rolled out and we discover after that we are not protected,” says another healthcare worker.

AstraZeneca vaccine update with Neha Poonia:

Criticism 

Meanwhile, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) has criticised Minister Mkhize and his team for not conducting research on the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the new variant of COVID-19 before it arrived in the country.

“We are very disappointed at the developments. We would have expected that the minister and his team would have gone through these research processes before the vaccines were acquired from India. It also makes it a bit difficult for all those that were looking to getting vaccinated. With all this fake news circulating – it almost gives credence to it to say that the Minister and team are confused and don’t know what they are doing. Everybody is now worried about these developments, they want to know now – how do they trust the other vaccines that will be coming through,” says Bongani Mazibuko, DENOSA Gauteng Spokesperson.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) says, despite the government’s decision to temporarily stop the vaccine rollout – they remain positive that inoculation will take place soon.

NEHAWU’s Khaya Xaba says their members are still eager to receive the vaccination when it arrives.

“We hope that government will work extra hard to ensure we get more vaccines that will be able to deal with the new variant, especially Johnson & Johnson. We understand that viruses do mutate and from time to time they change so government must be extra vigilant. Workers still want to get inoculated because they believe will protect them. We are still working hard to convince more workers and even society at large to take the vaccine because we believe it will offer relief to stop transmission,” says Xaba.

AstraZeneca not so effective against SA variant: Dr Anban Pillay