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Save our jobs, save our summer by getting the jab, resi...

South Africa

VACCINATION DRIVE

Save our jobs, save our summer by getting the jab, residents urged at Athlone drive-through vaccine centre launch

A woman smiles after receiving her Covid-19 vaccine at the drive-through vaccination site in Athlone, Cape Town on Thursday, 2 September 2021. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

Save the upcoming summer end-of-year season – and jobs – by getting vaccinated, is the key message the Western Cape government is pushing as Covid-19 vaccinations reach the two-million mark. The province launched a drive-through vaccination centre in Athlone on Thursday.

Get vaccinated in order to reopen summer festivities – but most importantly to help recover job losses, urges the Western Cape government. On Thursday, Premier Alan Winde and Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo launched the drive-through vaccination centre at Athlone Stadium. 

The stadium, one of Cape Town’s most iconic soccer venues, had been converted into a mass vaccination centre two weeks ago. The drive-through site will open to the public on Friday and is the first public drive-through site in the province, where the aim is to administer 4,000 vaccines per day. 

The drive-through is not only for cars, but taxis and buses, too. “It’s tailor-made for everyone, so there’s no excuse [not to get vaccinated],” said Mbombo. 

A cyclist sanitises his hands after receiving his Covid-19 jab at the Athlone Stadium drive-through vaccination site on Thursday. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

During the launch, MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez said: “People actually don’t have to get out of their vehicle – those who are fearful of going into buildings can actually be vaccinated comfortably without stress and anxiety.” Fernandez is the political head for the Klipfontein/Mitchells Plain hotspot and is tasked with reporting to Winde’s provincial cabinet on Covid-19. 

‘The vaccine mascot’ 

Merisca Davids (30) from Brentwood Park, who arrived to get vaccinated at the centre, was anxious but excited. “They call me the vaccine mascot because I’ve been preaching for people to get vaccines,” she said. 

“It was something I was hoping and praying for that they open the age group,” she told Daily Maverick. Davids’s group (18-34) was finally able to get vaccinated mid-August

Merisca Davids, the ‘vaccine mascot’, is observed for 15 minutes after receiving her Covid-19 vaccine at the Athlone drive-through vaccination site on Thursday. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

‘Save our summer’

The drive-through is one of the province’s measures to get residents vaccinated. Others include mobile units going into far-flung and low vaccine uptake vaccination areas. So far, 2,046,973 jabs have been administered in the province. 

Mbombo said she is aiming for 70% of residents to be vaccinated by the end of November, which usually marks the start of the holiday summer season. Currently 40% of those eligible had been vaccinated already. 

“We are going to do it, we have to do it,” she added. 

Speaking to Daily Maverick, Winde said the province was coming off a third wave of infections, but a fourth has already been predicted – in  November. 

A fourth wave at the start of the peak tourism season could spell disaster for the industry, which has been severely affected by the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde launches the Athlone drive-through Covid-19 vaccination site on Thursday, alongside Western Cape Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Social Development Sharna Fernandez and head of operations at the Western Cape Health Department, Dr Saadiq Kariem.  (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

“The tourism sector generated R15,5-billion in gross value add and supported 174,982 jobs in 2019 in the Western Cape. But the sector has been hard hit and, while the Western Cape maintains the lowest unemployment rate in South Africa, the tourism sector is estimated to have lost 75,477 jobs in 2020. This is why reigniting tourism is important for jobs and the economy in the Western Cape,” Finance MEC David Maynier said this week.

Mbombo told Daily Maverick there was a need to reach out to people in order to get them vaccinated, especially the 18-34-year age group, in which there is excitement to get vaccinated. There was also a need to reach out to people where they were – including through mobile units – particularly those living on the streets and young people. 

Mbombo is undertaking a #JabsB4JoL (Jabs before Jol) initiative, going out to nightclubs and other entertainment venues to administer vaccines to the 18-34 age group. On Wednesday, she was at the popular Rands entertainment venue in Khayelitsha, where her team vaccinated 200 people. 

A cyclist waits in line to receive her Covid-19 shot at the Athlone Stadium drive-through vaccination site on Thursday. (Photo: Victoria O’Regan)

Mbombo said she would soon be going to places such as Long Street and Cubana in Green Point to urge young people to get vaccinated. 

“Before you socialise, get a jab, vaccination before vacation, you have to jab before jol,” she said. DM

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