Covid-19: Several Western Cape teachers say no to vaccine due to religious, health concerns

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A number of teachers in the Western Cape are refusing the Covid-19 vaccine due to religious and health concerns.
A number of teachers in the Western Cape are refusing the Covid-19 vaccine due to religious and health concerns.
PHOTO: ER Lombard/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • Not all Cape Town teachers want to get the Johnson & Johnson jab.
  • The Covid-19 vaccine rollout for the education sector is set to start on Wednesday, up until 8 July.
  • In one school, 26 out of a total of 50 staff members are refusing to get vaccinated.

Not all Cape Town teachers are eagerly waiting to get their Johnson & Johnson jab, which is set to be distributed from Wednesday.

On Saturday, Department of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for teachers would be between 23 June until 8 July.

However, some teachers in the Western Cape said they would not be participating in the drive due to vaccine safety concerns, religious reasons or pregnancy.

A 26-year-old primary school teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was not getting vaccinated.

She said:

I feel there is not enough research done on the vaccine with regards to the long term effects it may have.

She added that with other vaccines such as the flu shot, they only get vaccinated once a year, however, she was unclear as to how many times the Covid vaccine would have to be administered.

"[I am] a young woman, I have don't have any kids of my own as yet. There is not much said on the long term effects on fertility and that scares me a lot."

A Northern Suburbs school principal, who also did not want to be named, said more than half of the teachers at his school made it clear that they would not be taking the vaccine.

"I've been in discussions with these teachers, but they are not budging and they will not be taking the vaccines," he added.

Amongst those refusing to take the jab, were several pregnant teachers who indicated that they would not be putting their babies at risk.

ALSO READ | Covid-19: Schools will remain open amid third wave of Covid-19 infections

"With no solid information about the effects of the vaccine on my baby, I will definitely not be taking it. I am still young. What if things go wrong? The department can't force us," another teacher stressed.

Although the education department said that getting vaccinated was voluntary, Motshekga advised that it was highly recommended so that everybody was protected against the virus, and schools could be turned into safe areas.

Several Rastafarian teachers also indicated that due to religious beliefs they would not be taking the vaccine.

"For religious regions, I will not be taking the vaccine. I believe in a natural way and the vaccine is not natural," a Rastafarian teacher indicated.

Another school indicated that out of 50 staff members 26 were refusing to get vaccinated.

They too sighted pregnancy, illness and religious beliefs.

Hein Scheepers - leader and activist from the RasTafari Nation Adwa Movement in Cape Town - said people should not be forced to take the vaccine. 

"We don't support mandatory vaccination because there are different layers to this. We are saying people should not get fired if they do not want the vaccine. We strongly advocate people to boost up their immune system drinking herbs and vitamin C," Scheepers said.

Meanwhile, 64-year-old Wilma Buckton who's been in the teaching sector for 40 years said after doing her own research on the vaccine, she had decided to participate in the rollout.

Buckton said:

At first I was very skeptical about taking the vaccine or not because I was worried that it could harm my body. I've been investigating it and I did register some time ago. I've decided to take the Pfizer one.

She added that the rollout of vaccines for teachers was scary since there were so many negative issues around the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

"Many teachers are not going to take it because of negativity about the J&J vaccine. They are concerned about side effects," added Buckton.

Also lining up for the vaccine, a southern suburbs teacher said at their school most teachers were eager to get the jab.

ALSO READ | Western Cape education department urges teachers to get Covid-19 jab

"We are fortunate, we are getting the jab before many other state employees, even the police."

Non-closure of school

Another teacher said the millions of school children who would not yet be getting the vaccine, meant that teachers could still get infected at school.

Another concerns raised by teachers was the possible return of all pupils to schools while the third wave was raging.

The department said that schools would remain open during the third wave. Incidents of Covid-19 would be dealt with on a school-by-school or province-by- province basis.

Buckton said it would be ideal for schools to close for a while to keep pupils and teachers safe. 

"But on the other hand, the learners are already behind with the curriculum and another close of schools will cause a further backlog," she added.

Another teacher said they were not expecting schools to close as the department didn't seem keen to do this. 

"I think the department just feels if all the teachers are vaccinated, they can just keep on with the schools being open; yet 52% said they not taking it, so it doesn't make any sense. Schools should've closed earlier for this term," she added.


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