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TSHWANE teachers who received their jabs of the Covid-19 vaccine at various sites across the metro have given the first day of the provincial vaccination efforts the thumbs up.
They were speaking as the vaccination programme in Gauteng aimed at inoculating 125 934 teachers, education support staff and officials at 60 vaccination sites in all regions across Gauteng officially kicked off yesterday.
The department said it believed the vaccination drive would effectively begin the process of normalising schooling and mitigating the disruptive impact of Covid-19 in schools.
This was something crucial given that as of June 18 the department announced that there were up to 4 700 Covid-19 cases in Gauteng schools, as infections in the provincial education sector had continued to rise.
Speaking on the first day of the vaccination drive at Rabasotho Community Hall in Tembisa, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi pleaded with the education sector, staff and non-staff officials to get their Covid-19 vaccinations.
Lesufi, who also received his own dose of the vaccine, was accompanied by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Deputy Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla.
He said the department “appreciated and endorsed” the decision to prioritise the sector as he alluded to the increasing number of infections in schools and the dire need to protect teachers.
“Every learner comes from a family and goes back to that family, and you don’t want the child to be carrying the virus to the family. If you can protect the children, you can protect everyone.”
He said so far the department was happy with the progress made at all 60 sites in Gauteng as no major glitches had been reported by midday, and those that did crop up were quickly attended to.
Meanwhile, those at vaccination sites north of Tshwane said although they were naturally anxious about getting their jabs, they felt that the process was long overdue. John Kekana, 48, a teacher at Baxoxele Primary School in Soshanguve, said teachers had been waiting for a long time to get the jab. He said they experienced a lot of cases of infections reported just this week, and they were relieved they would from now on be protected.
“We had our doubts initially but after my mother called to tell me how the vaccine was treating her I decided to join her.
“Perhaps it’s all these issues with the expiry dates and other problems with other doses, but I feel like the government is just too slow in getting these things to people considering all these new cases.”
Noria Moima, 54, said she had even gone straight to the bathroom to check if her R1 coin would stick on the jab site as some of the speculations surrounding the vaccine had stated.
“I didn’t want to hear from other people so I decided to just give it a try even in my scepticism because I’ve had friends, relatives and colleagues get infected with the virus.
“I do feel like the government is dropping the ball and being slow with rolling out these vaccinations because had they started earlier we wouldn’t have lost so many of our colleagues and we’re losing learners now.”
Despite her concern at the rate of the roll-out, she said she felt more confident after getting her shot and would gladly encourage any hesitant teacher or person to get it.
Teacher Whitney Leshaba, 55, received his jab at the Mabopane indoor centre, and said he was more scared of contracting the virus than getting the jab.
Leshaba from Abel Motshoane Secondary School said he was relieved to have received his jab as he was worried about the rising infections among teachers.
“It’s for the benefit of everyone who does not want to get the virus not to delay. This is long overdue and I honestly feel like we should have in fact gotten this six months ago.”
From June 23 to July 8, 71 726 teachers from Gauteng public schools are expected to be vaccinated, alongside 24 492 non-educators including clerks, food handlers and teachers’ union staff. Approximately 10 488 school-governing body-appointed teachers and Grade R practitioners are also expected to be vaccinated, as well as 19 678 teachers from independent schools. Lesufi said even though they were urging teachers to get their jabs, the option to vaccinate still remained voluntary.