The vaccination of Gauteng teachers got under way on Wednesday, with just a few glitches reported in the morning.
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said a vaccination site in Roodepoort had to close because of a burst water pipe, but the education team was trying to find a new location.
And there was a vaccine delivery mix-up. “There are areas in the south [of Johannesburg] where the vaccine which was delivered was the opposite of the vaccine which was supposed to be delivered,” Lesufi said.
At these sites, the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two jabs, was delivered instead of the Johnson & Johnson jab, which only requires single administration and had been prescribed for those in the education department. “They are rectifying that,” said Lesufi.
He was speaking at the Rabasotho community centre in Thembisa, where he had just received his vaccination. He was joined by education minister Angie Motshekga and the deputy health minister, Joe Phaahla.
Teachers and educational department staff had also started trickling in to receive their jabs.
A total of 125,934 workers in the education sector in Gauteng are expected to get vaccinated between now and July 8. Of that total, Lesufi said:
- 71,726 are educators at Gauteng public schools;
- 24,492 are non-educators such as clerks, food handlers and teacher union staff;
- 10,488 are school governing body-appointed educators and grade R practitioners in public schools; and
- the remainder is made up of educators from independent schools.
“We are happy with progress made at all our 60 sites in Gauteng as no major glitches were reported, beside a few challenges that were quickly attended to,” he said.
Lesufi said he had mixed emotions. “I am feeling well after taking the vaccine but obviously with mixed emotions — one being that finally this is going on, but there is another part that says we have lost a lot of time in education and, if we had this earlier, we would have protected the needs of our children.”
He said he was despondent about recent findings by experts that the closure and opening of schools had resulted in a loss of three to five years of schooling.
“It is very important that we cover that lost time and this is the beginning.”
Lesufi said he hoped the deadline of July 8 would be met, to open the way for other front-line workers to join the vaccination queue.
“We must not be seen as greedy as the education sector by delaying. We must not be seen as selfish. The queue is long and everyone wants to vaccinate,” he said.
Lesufi said a vaccination plan had been drawn up which gave every school a day and time when their teachers should report to vaccination sites. This, he said, would ensure there were no disruptions to learning.
He urged educators to not squander the opportunity they had been given. “I really believe it is important for them to come here. Though vaccination is not compulsory, it is highly recommended, and therefore we would like to urge all our staff members to take advantage of this opportunity.
“It is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said, adding that vaccinating teaching and support staff would lead to the protection of children.
“If you check the [Covid-19 infection] numbers that are increasing in our schools, you will see that it is very important that we protect our educators. 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.”