The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Traditional Health Practitioners Association is appealing to  government to also prioritise them alongside healthcare workers in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that healthcare workers will form part of the first phase of the roll-out of vaccine that is set to begin next month.

The traditional healthcare sector was marginalised in the past. With the dawn of democracy, Section 27 of the constitution recognises the sector as a vital component of the healthcare system.

President of the SADC Traditional Healers Association, Doctor Mbaimbai Hlati, says they should be part of the first group of people to be vaccinated as they regularly attend to patients with coronavirus symptoms, which puts them at risk of contracting the virus.

“We as traditional practitioners, the constitution recognises us very well. We are equal to all doctors and all nurses and if you can remember the WHO they even say, even our government says 85% of people visit traditional practitioners before they even go to the clinic, so why now when we are supposed to benefit as well in a vaccine, we are left behind. We are also in this frontline workers field that we deserve to be vaccinated because we are definitely losing our members as well.”

Discussion on  the coronavirus vaccine strategy: 

Hlati adds that even though they did not take part in the manufacturing of the vaccine, they accept it with the hope that it does not carry any harmful substances.

“It’s not about trusting the vaccine. Unfortunately, because we are not part of the researchers, we are not part of people who are busy processing or producing the vaccine, we are not involved in any way. So even if we are not happy with the vaccine, you remember as people who consult our ancestors, we have privilege or power to say is this vaccine good for me and when my ancestors give me go-ahead, I won’t have a problem.”

Attempts to get a comment from the Office of the President and the Department of Health proved futile.