KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has urged healthcare workers in the province to take advantage of the vaccination programme. Zikalala held a COVID-19 media briefing in Pietermaritzburg ahead of his State of Province Address on Friday.

He says a total of 15 829 healthcare workers in the province’s public sector have been infected with the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

Zikalala says more than half of them are nurses.

“A call for healthcare workers to come forward and get vaccinated is an important one given the rising COVID-19 stats in so far as these important soldiers are concerned. The majority of these infected healthcare workers were nurses at 55% and of the total infected, 335 have sadly succumbed to the disease. We remain committed to ensuring that every category of healthcare worker in the private and public sector will be vaccinated.

Zikalala says he is satisfied with the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for healthcare workers in the province. Zikalala says since the vaccine rollout, 1 279 healthcare workers in the province have been vaccinated with no complications reported.

Zikalala is calling on citizens to act responsibly as the country approaches a possible third wave.

KZN has the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in the country.

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Zikalala says although the province has noted a decrease in the number of cases in the past week, people should not be complacent and act irresponsibly.

“As we have cautioned before, one infection or one death due to COVID-19 is one too many. Now is not the time to celebrate or drop our guards or be complacent. COVID-19 is still here and it is a deadly disease. There is the ever-looming threat of the third wave of infection that we need to guard against, especially as we approach the winter months.”

Healthcare workers flocking to be vaccinated

The Department of Health says there is a surge in demand for the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that South Africa has begun rolling out.

The vaccine provides 57% protection against moderate to severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease and 100% protection against death, based on evidence from the clinical trials that included South African participants.

More than 10 000 healthcare workers nationwide have so far received their doses.

A look at COVID-19 vaccine rollout in SA with Professor Ian Sanne:

“The response from private healthcare professionals has been heartening and exceeded expectations across several sites. The confidence by healthcare workers in the vaccine and the protection it offers is evident in the queues and higher than planned demand from doctors and nurses across the country,” adds the Health Department.

The Health Minister says the high demand has led to a longer waiting time, which the Department, private sector partners and the Sisonke Programme team are working towards resolving in real-time.

“We are confident that our partnership across public and private sectors will help to overcome these short-term process challenges and result in us being able to protect many healthcare workers in a shorter period of time,” the statement reads.

Western Cape round of vaccinations

Over 1 300 healthcare workers have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the Western Cape. The first phase of the vaccine roll-out continued on Sunday, with private doctors getting inoculated at Tygerberg and Groote Schuur hospitals in Cape Town.

The provincial health department says it is targeting 500 inoculations a day at both sites, with 100 a day at Khayelistha District Hospital.

Dr Dhevan Naidoo practices as a GP in Khayelitsha and Mfuleni. Usually, he would be the one administering injections, but today Naidoo was on the receiving end of the needle, as one of the first private doctors to be vaccinated at Groote Schuur hospital.

“At the moment it’s the best defence we have. The actual process it’s totally painless. The injection you won’t feel a thing. I think a bee sting is a little bit more painful than this, it’s pretty coordinated. There’s a little bit of a wait but just to make sure things are done properly I’ve had COVID-19 before which I have recovered from and it’s not a pleasant experience so it’s definitely if you get a chance to get the vaccine – get it,” Dr Naidoo urges.

The province received 13 000 of the initial 80 000 Johnson and Johnson doses, which arrived in the country last week. Dr Shabir Moolla was among the first to get the vaccine.

“It’s going to assist me tremendously because I see patients as a first-line practitioner presenting with COVID-19 symptoms. If I am protected it can at least safeguard me and I can continue managing patients and delivering service that we are supposed to be doing,” Moolla says.

The current rollout forms part of the implementation study for clinical trials. As such, rural areas have not yet been included at this stage.