Vaccination of healthcare workers has started at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. A total of 4 920 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have been allocated to the Mthatha site during this first round.

The process has been slow due to manual registration as many health workers struggled to register online.

The health department is hopeful the number of health workers applying for vaccination will increase as there are some who are still reluctant to receive the vaccine.

Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital is one of the biggest referral hospitals in the OR Tambo District. More than 3 000 health workers are employed in this facility.

The first batch of healthcare workers to get inoculated were joyful.

They are hopeful that this is one step towards normality.

“I don’t know why there is reluctance because this is the best option to avoid getting COVID-19 and why are they reluctant because the vaccine has been tested and it is the best method to prevent COVID-19,” says one of the health workers.

Another health worker says, “I told my colleagues that I will be the first to vaccinate and I meant that, not just as a mother but as a nurse because me vaccinating sends a clear message to the community.”

The rollout of the vaccine began yesterday: 

Researcher at the hospital, Professor Thozama Dubula, says they hope to see more health workers register to get inoculated in the next week.

Dubula says the department will advise which healthcare workers will be vaccinated next after the 3 350 have been vaccinated at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital.

“There were some issues. So, we needed to re-educate people and share ideas around this vaccination. Moving live to the VDS system for everybody to get the system only happened yesterday and most of the people hadn’t registered then. So, those are some of the contributing issues to the low level of registrations. The appetite for people is improving over time and expected to get better as time goes on.”

Denosa Chairperson in the Eastern Cape, Sivuyile Mange, says their members are happy about the vaccination.

Mange expressed concerns about healthcare workers who were employed in the department to assist during the pandemic, but who might be unemployed in a few months’ time.

“They must expedite this rollout because we believe it is going to reinforce the issue where there is a lack of PPEs, but we are not saying the department should let their guard down in terms of ensuring that there is adequate supply where they are needed. We are appealing to the government, especially the Treasury because it is a budgetary issue, the reason why these contract workers are going to be terminated. We can’t use such workforce at the time of need only.”

Healthcare workers in other hospitals are anxious for the next batch of vaccines to become available so that they can also have some defence against the virus.