PHOTO ESSAY

‘I’m proud and happy that the vaccine is finally here’

By Shiraaz Mohamed 23 February 2021

An underexposed image of pharmacist Aaliya Ganget as she loads syringes with the vaccine at Tshepong Hospital. Ganget said, ‘I feel so privileged to be given the opportunity to save lives and hopefully help South Africa to fight this terrible pandemic. I am so excited to be a part of history.’ (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Healthcare workers have been first in line to get vaccinated. Daily Maverick visited Tshepong and Klerksdorp hospitals in North West — on the first day of Covid-19 vaccinations and again on Sunday — to witness the highly anticipated, urgent vaccine roll-out to staff in the public and private sector.

Occupational therapist Isolde Burger was injected with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Klerksdorp Hospital on Day One of the roll-out. Speaking to Daily Maverick moments after getting the jab, she said: “I don’t know how I feel now. I am quite scared of the symptoms that might come afterwards, because there is not really clear information about how you will feel afterwards. It is a very experimental thing. I think there is more fear than anything.”

A pharmacist loads a syringe with the vaccine at the Aurum Institute in the North West before taking it to Klerksdorp Hospital where it will be administered to healthcare workers. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Despite her fear, Burger said it was her duty as a frontline worker to get vaccinated. She also said it was the next best thing to do after physical distancing. 

Pharmacist Almar Meiring removes a batch of 10 syringes loaded with the vaccine at Klerksdorp Hospital before being administered to healthcare workers. The vaccine is stored in a fridge to maintain its effectiveness. The temperature of the fridge is continuously monitored. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Health MEC Madoda Sambatha encouraged health workers to get vaccinated at the launch of the roll-out and said there should not be a preference on which vaccine to use. 

A healthcare worker is vaccinated at Klerksdorp Hospital. To date 40,000 healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19, 6,473 have been hospitalised and 663 have died from the virus. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“I don’t want us to have a preference on vaccinations. We must not say Johnson & Johnson against Pfizer, or Pfizer against Moderna. Every vaccine that will come to South African shores is going to go through the registration process handled by the national Department of Health and South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).” 

Nurses prepare to administer the vaccination to two healthcare workers at Tshepeong Hospital. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

He emphasised that the vaccine was not a cure against Covid, but helped protect against the virus and said, “We need to continue wearing masks, wash our hands repeatedly and maintain social distancing.” He later welcomed the vaccine by singing, “We are ready, we are ready for vaccination.” 

Clinical Management Support DR Mahloko (right of image) watches over nurse Cephehlo as she administers the vaccine to a healthcare worker at Tshepong Hospital. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The roll-out is part of a three-phase programme, with the first phase focusing on healthcare workers. In a programme called Sisonke (togetherness), the vaccine will be rolled out to up to 500,000 healthcare workers around South Africa. To date, at least 40,000 SA healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19 while 6,473 have been hospitalised and 663 have died. 

Vials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before being loaded into syringes at Tshepong Hospital. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Thabo Lepholletsa, a nurse, commented, “For the past 12 to 16 months, this virus has been terrorising our community, our people have been dying, we’ve been losing our loved ones. So I’m proud and happy that the vaccine is finally here.” 

But some are sceptical about taking the vaccine. A nurse described the uncertainty. 

A healthcare worker gets the jab at Tshepong Hospital. A statement issued by the Department of Health said, ‘Protecting our healthcare workers is an urgent priority.’ Phase 1 of the vaccine programme is focused on healthcare workers. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“Most of the people want to see what will happen to the first group, how is it going to affect them, the reaction and everything. There are doctors who are also negative about being vaccinated, they are not sure about the vaccine itself. They are not sure whether it is the right one. I think after seeing others get vaccinated, they will get vaccinated.” 

Paramedic Thembile Ngami, who is in the private sector, described some of the fears. 

Pharmacists Aaliya Ganget (right) and Elba Janse van Rensburg ensure that the correct amount of the vaccine is loaded at the Klerksdorp Hospital. Pharmacists need to draw up exactly 0.25ml of the vaccine for each shot. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“Most of the people have been joking around talking about the effects of the vaccine. Saying that once you take it you will lose your mind or you might be paralysed. They respond to their fear and say they will not take the vaccine and face Corona on their own. 

“They might be health professionals but they are still human beings and they are allowed to be scared. As for me, I think the vaccine will make a difference. I am positive and hoping that this will be our solution, especially with the first batch.”

Dr Radhika Patel gets her shot at Klerksdorp Hospital. She says it was very stressful seeing the condition of her patients deteriorate very quickly during the second wave and is a strong believer in the vaccine. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Dr Radhika Patel, who is based at Klerksdorp Hospital, said Covid-19 had brought a lot of uncertainty. Coupled with fear and anxiety, she said it was stressful seeing her patients deteriorate quickly and she was a strong believer in getting vaccinated. 

“It is difficult to speak on behalf of everyone because there are so many different opinions, but I think most of us are happy and willing to receive the vaccine.

A healthcare worker is vaccinated at Klerksdorp Hospital as part of the Sisonke (Together) programme. Sisonke will be rolled out to as many as 500,000 healthcare workers across the country. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

“I am relieved to have taken the vaccine, and hopefully it will provide immunity. The Johnson & Johnson trials have looked promising, so here is to hoping to once again live in a world without masks and social distancing.” 

North West has received 8,400 doses of the 80,000 doses allocated for private and public healthcare workers. DM

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