Feelings of hope and anxiety as the vaccine roll-out begins

Feelings of hope and anxiety as the vaccine roll-out begins
President Cyril Ramaphosa joins healthcare workers as they receive coronavirus vaccination. (Photo: GCIS)

Celebrations – and a little nervousness – were the order of the day as the first long-awaited Covid-19 vaccine was administered to healthcare workers in South Africa.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

For the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa, the halls of the country’s hospitals were filled with hope again as health workers welcomed the roll-out of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and lined up to get their jab.

Health workers were feeling a mixture of hope and reticence, psychiatrist Dr Zukiswa Zingela said on Friday.

Zingela started Team Sisonke during the pandemic, a project to support the mental health of healthcare workers while they were battling two waves of the pandemic.

The protocol for the roll-out of the vaccine is also called Sisonke, meaning “we are in this together”.

She said they were feeling hopeful because the vaccine had arrived but there was also some anxiety, probably fuelled by conspiracy theories and a lack of knowledge grounded in science.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize joins healthcare workers as they receive coronavirus vaccination. (Photo: GCIS)

“They were exposed to very high levels of stress in a world where the usual support systems could not be accessed and the usual means of support were unavailable. Even simple human contact became a no-no, during one of the toughest challenges we have been faced with in a while. We worried about our own health, the health of close friends and family, both parents and kids, and the health of patients who were in our care. Sometimes no matter what we did, precious lives were lost. That shadow will stalk us for a while,” she said.

Her words were echoed by many of the more than 2,000 healthcare workers who received their vaccines this week.

“I wanted to set an example for those who work with me. I am very relieved that there is something that can help us. It will really bring down the stress levels in the hospital. It is good to know that we can now protect ourselves, our families and our patients,” said Sister Miranda Ludick, who is the operations manager for the Surgical Ward at Livingstone Hospital in Nelson Mandela Bay.

In Mthatha, the Nelson Mandela Academic hospital’s acting director of clinical governance, Dr Mzulungile Nodikida, was one of the first vaccinated.

“I feel great. I have confidence in this … that it will work. I am happy to be one of the first to receive it. I wasn’t scared. The needle is painful. I am feeling good. No itching or pain,” he said.

Ncediswa Mtyingizane, who administered the first vaccines, said she now had a lot of hope. “I am looking forward to administering the vaccine [to my colleagues] and I am also happy to be vaccinated. There was a fear that my patient may react but I am happy that nothing happened,” she said.

In true South African style it was not a boring roll-out at all.

Steve Biko Hospital staff member Dr Onicca Khobo-Mpe gets vaccinated.(Photo: Gallo Images / Lefty Shivambu)

At Groote Schuur Hospital health workers who were vaccinated were awarded with lollipops. The Eastern Cape welcomed the vaccines with applause and cheers.

After becoming the first South African to be vaccinated at the Khayelitsha District Hospital, nurse Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi returned to her workstation and delivered a healthy baby boy, weighing 5 kg.

Gidi-Dyosi, who is a midwife, says she experienced no side effects after the vaccination and returned to her workstation shortly after getting her jab.

“When I returned to my workstation after getting my shot, there was a patient who needed to deliver her baby. I delivered the baby boy. This shows that after receiving the vaccine, you can return to your normal life. I feel fine and I am still able to work.

“The vaccine has given us hope. Working during Covid-19 has been hectic, but I have hope now. I encourage all South Africans to take the vaccine. Let’s consent to it, as we know nobody can force you to take it, but you can take it for your own health and your loved ones,” she said.

Melody Camelo, who worked as the Covid-19 coordinator for all designated wards for six months last year, said she had not contracted the virus.

“I have witnessed patients struggling to breathe, being on oxygen and having no energy to do the simplest of tasks. My worst experience was talking to a patient one day and assisting him with a video call to contact his wife and children, only to return to the ward later and find the patient being intubated by the resus [resuscitation] team and rushed to ICU.

Darlene de Vos is the first person to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in Nelson Mandela Bay on 17 February 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Lulama Zenzile)

“A staff member later approached me with tears in her eyes saying that the patient was in her care, and all I could do was to support her emotionally. This moment will remain with me forever and will remind me of how devastating this disease has been.

“Hence, I will be vaccinated. I want to be part of the herd immunity which will protect me, my family, my colleagues and the community from being infected [with] or transmitting Covid-19,” she said.

Principal specialist and head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Anaesthesia at Groote Schuur Hospital, Dr Felipe Montoya, said it was an emotional moment for him.

“I felt a profound sense of relief and gratitude, like a … burden had been lifted from my shoulders. The feeling that I now have another innate ‘layer of protection’ in addition to standard personal protective equipment was just wonderful,” he said. DM168

Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c), it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address Covid-19. We are, therefore, disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information we should know about, please email


This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

Get DM168 delivered to your door

Subscribe to DM168 home delivery and get your favourite newspaper delivered every weekend.

Delivery is available in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.

Subscribe Now→

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options