“Despite all the precautions we take every day to prevent us getting Covid-19 ourselves, this gives us an additional level of protection that provides great reassurance,” says Prof Ivan Joubert, head of critical care at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Joubert was among the first healthcare workers to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the hospital on Wednesday 17 February.
The vaccine, which arrived in the country on Tuesday 16 February, was administered to a group of 40 doctors and nurses at the hospital. It is expected to be administered to all frontline health workers around the country in the coming weeks.
Dr Bhavna Patel, chief executive officer of the hospital, says the recipients form part of vaccinators who will administer the vaccine to other healthcare workers.
Joubert says he now has a sense of hope. “We’ve all been longing for the vaccine. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to be vaccinated – a trivial intervention when I think of the vast number of extremely sick patients we’ve seen, many of whom have died.”
Joubert has been working with Covid-19 positive patients since the first patient was admitted in April last year. Since then, he says, they have looked after 450 ventilated Covid-19 patients.
Joubert says there’s huge anticipation among frontline workers to receive their vaccines. “Impatience too,” he adds.
Patel adds: “We’re in very challenging times at the moment – the pandemic has really tested the health sector and being able to offer something in the way of the vaccine, something that protects people from severe disease and death, gives us hope.”
She says: “It allows us to offer hope to our healthcare workers. Without our healthcare workers, we won’t be able to offer a service to our patients and the community. We hope that all South Africans will be able to be vaccinated so that we will be safe from this virus.”
Joubert encourages people to not make their decision on getting the vaccine based on information they consume on social media. “It is imperative that as many as possible receive the vaccine. The negative perceptions around the vaccine have been driven largely through social media – an exceptionally unreliable source if you’re looking for scientific information.”
By Sunday 21 February, a total of 2 756 people had been vaccinated provincially while health minister Zweli Mkhize says more than 15 000 healthcare workers had been vaccinated countrywide.
Premier Alan Winde says the vaccination process will continue as they work to deliver the 13 000 Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccines to healthcare workers in the province, as part of the implementation study.
“Last week we saw history unfold as Sister Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi, from the Khayelitsha hospital, became the first healthcare worker in the country to be vaccinated. I am also extremely proud that it was a Western Cape healthcare worker, Sister Milanie Bennett, who vaccinated President Cyril Ramaphosa.”
Winde also thanks frontline workers for the incredible job they have done over the past year under very difficult circumstances. Winde urges everyone to continue taking precautions as they work to roll out this batch of vaccines and others.