South Africa on Wednesday started the vaccination of 600,000 school teachers and their members of staff against the coronavirus in efforts to protect millions of students from the Covid-19 third wave surging across the country.Launching the exercise in the township of Tembisa in Gauteng Province, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she was confident that the teachers and their staff would receive their single-dose Johnson & Johnson jabs before the end of the second school term.
“I am elated and encouraged,” Motshekga told journalists of the two-week exercise which ends on 8 July.
She added: “We said we need two weeks for the vaccinations because we don’t want to disrupt schooling. And when we end the exercise on the 8th of July, we want to make sure that when the schools reopen for the next term, all the vaccinations would have been finished.”
The minister said she was optimistic that the education sector would meet the deadline, adding: “We don’t want to close vaccinations on the 8th of July and still have vaccination issues.”
Gauteng Province’s Education Minister Panyaza Lesufi, who also got his jab during the launch, said he felt good after taking the Covid-19 injection.
He described the choice to immunise teachers and their staff as “brilliant”, given the third wave’s surge that was ravaging Gauteng Province which has the highest Covid-19 cases and morbidities in the country.
“Every child [has a family] and you don’t want them to carry the virus home to their families from their teachers at school. We must ensure that our young people are protected for the country’s future and economy,” Lesufi said.
He shot down criticism that government was vaccinating all teachers, including the young ones who might not have any comorbidities.
“Teachers are people that give birth to all our professions. We need to protect them because they take care of our precious children,” he said.
“If you check the number of Covid-19 cases that are increasing in our schools, you’ll realise how important it is to protect our educators,” Lesufi said.
Health Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla said the move to prioritise teachers was important for the future of the country.
Phaahla told the media that the country has already received 300 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and was expecting another 700,000 doses in the next seven days for the educators.
He said: “We won’t run out of stock and we will have no shortage to ensure that the full complement of the education sector is covered.”
According to Phaahla, next in line for the jabs is the security cluster, which includes police and traffic officers, soldiers and public sector officials in the frontline.