South Africa

COVID-19

Higher Education Department announces vaccine roll-out for staff members, in collaboration with Health Department

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande. (Photo: Gallo Images/Frennie Shivambu)

The Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology will start vaccinating higher education staff members over the age of 35 on Saturday, 24 July.

Announcing the roll-out on Friday, the minister of higher education, science and technology said: “The infrastructure and logistics that we have set up within our Post-School Education and Training sector will provide easy access to our country’s general immunisation plan and will reduce the load on the Department of Health vaccination points.”

The plan would be implemented in coordination with the Health Department which oversees the country’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

According to Nzimande, Higher Health, an agency under his department that focuses on students’ physical and mental health, had collated the information of staff members who work across all the higher education institutions, Sector Education and Training Authorities, the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations and the National Skills Fund. 

There are a total of 250,000 staff members across those institutions, he said.

To kick off the vaccine roll-out on Saturday, False Bay TVET College staff members will be vaccinated at a site in Woodstock; South West Gauteng TVET College staff members will be vaccinated at a site in Roodeport; Tshwane North TVET College staff at a site in Centurion; and the University of Johannesburg staff at a Midrand site. 

From Monday, Higher Health and the Department of Health will open 12 additional sites across Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town, Gqeberha and eThekwini, said Nzimande.

In the major metros, “where we have good access to cold storage facilities”, the Pfizer vaccine would be administered while the Johnson & Johnson shot would be administered in the rural areas “as this requires cold storage facilities at higher temperatures than for Pfizer and other mRNA vaccines”. 

Higher Health had made provision for each site to be dedicated to vaccinating about 300 to 1,000 people per day.

Nzimande said he had visited some of the sites at the University of Pretoria, Mthashana TVET College in Durban and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Post-School Education and Training staff aged 35 and above make up 70% of the staff in the sector. Vaccinating this group should be completed within a month, he said.

Once all the over 35-year-olds are vaccinated, Phase 2B will begin, prioritising students in residences and in private accommodation. 

Asked whether students and staff younger than 35 with comorbidities would be prioritised in the vaccine roll-out, Ramneek Ahluwalia, chief executive of Higher Health, said they would not because the data show they are less likely to die when infected with Covid-19. 

South Africa’s third wave has been dominated by the Delta variant, which was first detected in India. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, data from the UK show that the Delta variant is 97% more transmissible than the original variant. Covid-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing severe disease after Delta variant infection, it said.

By Thursday, 22 July, South Africa had administered six million vaccine doses. To date, 1,039,313 people have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, while 1,115,609 have received the single-dose J&J vaccine. DM

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