'A shot in the dark': Teachers share their vaccination stories

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"Here teachers from around South Africa share their thoughts with us." Photo: Getty Images
"Here teachers from around South Africa share their thoughts with us." Photo: Getty Images

As teachers across South Africa continue to line up to be vaccinated, Parent24 reached out to find out how they feel about the vaccination, why joined the queue (or not) and how they feel about those teachers who are choosing to sit this one out.

Some teachers expressed concern about the efficacy and safety of the vaccination, while others shared that they are relieved and felt privileged to be among the first to have the option to protect themselves from the Covid-19 virus that has brought the world to a standstill. 

Also read: Are unvaccinated teachers a problem?  

Here teachers from around South Africa share their thoughts with us...

Fall sick, and die

Prescilla, an Orange Farm teacher, says she is not impressed by the vaccine. She admits she feels anxious because she doesn't understand it, and she worries if she will be protected enough. 

Prescilla has yet to be vaccinated because, she admits, she is afraid that she will fall sick, and die, after getting vaccinated. She is still waiting to decide. 

She says that due to her fear, she is currently siding with those who are against the vaccination. 

'I had to take care of the sick family members'

Cape Town-based Grade 6 teacher Zarah Hendricks tells Parent24 that initially, she didn't want the vaccination, so she declined.

She tells us that because of personal research, she was worried about any after-effects which would only be seen in two or three years. She says she read that a side effect could be problems conceiving. 

"That was scary because I'm not yet married, nor have I started a family. But after much deliberation, I opted to get it as a protection. I thought if a soldier goes to war with no protection, like a bulletproof vest, he will get injured or even die."

"If I took the vaccine, I would at least have some protection, and so would my family," she says.  "I also read that if I did get Covid-19, it wouldn't be as bad as someone without the vaccine. The stats show that people who get vaccinated are less likely to end up in hospital on a ventilator," she adds. 

Hendricks revealed that straight after receiving her vaccination, her family tested positive.

"Being the youngest and the only one without a co-morbidity I had to take care of the sick family members. I would like to think the vaccination did help, as I finished my isolation and I didn't have any symptoms. I feel normal and I was in close contact with a positive person, obviously taking precautions," she says.

She told Parent24 that she would tell anyone hesitant to get the vaccine, that after having taken it herself, they should reconsider their decision. "I've seen first-hand what the new variant does to someone to contracts it," she said.

"It's painful and heartbreaking, and I don't wish anyone to go through it. You are left alone in a bubble; nobody can come close. You are away from your family. It's not a pretty sight," Hendricks stresses. 

'A shot in the dark' 

A Cape Town-based teacher who asked us to change her name tells Parent24 that she has been against vaccinations from the beginning.

"They have not been tested. No data is available to determine long term effects or whether it has an effect on the virus," she says.

"This is a shot in the dark and I am not a fan of been a test subject for it." 

She adds that as South Africa is a constitutional democracy each person has their own choice to make concerning their health. 

"I feel that the employer is just safeguarding themselves if educators should start dying in higher numbers due to infection at school when we return to full classrooms, as they gave you the option to protect yourself and be safe in an unsafe working environment,"  she says. 

Also read: Schools to close for third wave, but pre-schools may remain open  

Lack of knowledge

Thembi, a teacher from Gauteng, says she felt relieved that she can be vaccinated. "Even if it's not a 100% protection, at least it could reduce my chances of being infected." 

Thembi recently contracted the virus but is looking forward to being able to be vaccinated once her doctor approves it.

She says that due to a lack of knowledge, her fellow teachers are afraid of the vaccination. "They have their own beliefs because they have seen messages on false sites or social media," she says, adding that there is a need for more vaccine education.  

'No one should be forced to have the vaccine'  

A Cape Town-based physical education teacher, who works closely with children of all ages at her school, tells Parent24 that she was uncertain about the vaccine, until the very end. 

"I had a lot of anxiety flooding my mind, mostly because of all the mixed theories going around. Even with my knowledge about the body and how it works, there is still the question of is this the right thing to do or not," she confesses.

She tells us that having conversations with colleagues and friends that had gone for the jab helped put things into perspective.

"As I am around children and many people for work reasons, I should have some sort of extra protection because we are still unclear of who has the virus or who could be a carrier," she says.

"Because I work with children from all over, this helped me decide to be vaccinated," the anonymous teacher said. "I'm around people all the time, so I just thought this would give my body an extra chance of fighting off the virus. I still wear a mask and take vitamins and observe protocol," she says. As far as other teachers getting vaccinated, she tells us she thinks it's their decision to make.

"I don't think more or less of them, I do feel that anyone should decide for themselves and if eventually, it's something they want, they should get access to it. I do feel no one should be forced to have the vaccine." 

She adds that only about 15 of the 30 teachers at her school chose to be vaccinated. 

'Anonymous vaccinations'

Meghan, a drama teacher, says she is grateful that teachers were seen as frontline and essential workers and therefore required the jab. 

"I would have possibly like the option of which vaccine but I do understand the difficulties with this," she adds. "I got vaccinated as I am exposed to hundreds of other people per day and therefore was more at risk. I did not want to contract the virus and potentially risk my life."

She reveals that at her school, vaccination has remained anonymous adding "I do not know who or who was not vaccinated".

Also read: Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here   

'Lead by example'

Nessa, a Grade 3 teacher, tells Parent24 that she is really disappointed in her fellow teachers who have refused to be vaccinated.

"These are other people's children we are working with!" she stresses.

"How can we lead by example with this attitude? This is a golden opportunity they are letting slip through their fingers because of misinformation. I suppose I cannot judge, however, I am grateful I don't have children in school now with teachers who are stubbornly refusing to protect themselves." 

Nessa says she chose to get vaccinated because she works with other parent's treasures.

"They've made a huge difference in my life, and because I work with these treasures, these children, I got vaccinated not only for myself but for them," she says. "I treasure my life as well as the lives of my family, friends, students and their families." 

'Benefits outweigh the risks'

Robyn, a Media Centre teacher, admits she felt anxious about getting vaccinated.

"I live with a chronic heart condition, and I am not absolutely persuaded that vaccinating is the right thing to do, but have been told that the Covid risk outweighs the vaccination risk so I took my chances," she says. 

"I feel it a responsibility in terms of my occupation as a teacher. Some of our colleagues chose not to be vaccinated and I felt impressed by their conviction, and respect their choice." 

Also read: Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here 

'No right or wrong'

Keri, a Sport Science teacher, was really excited to be vaccinated. 

"I felt like I was contributing towards the healthy success of our country and I knew this was the best way to protect myself, my family and friends," she says.   

"There was no right or wrong option regarding this choice and I'm sure everyone had their own valid reason, whether they chose to be vaccinated or chose to decline. I think it's their choice and they made the decision that felt right for them." 

'Profound relief'

Kelee, a Grade 1 teacher, shares that she felt profound relief when she heard that she was eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.

"Up until the announcement, teachers had no idea when or if they'd be considered 'worthy' enough to be bumped up the line, considering that any teacher can be exposed from 30 to 120 households one day," she says.

She adds that if given a choice to be first, she'd have jumped at the opportunity. 

"I joked around at school, 'warning' my colleagues that I was going to push my way to the front. I just couldn't wait," she shares.

"While I know that every person has the right to make their own decision, I feel when that decision can harm those around you, it is the wrong one," she adds.

"I, of course, am of the school of thought that vaccines in general should be mandatory. As a mother, I wouldn't want my child in a school where he could be exposed to an unvaccinated teacher and then become ill, or, bring a virus home to our family."

"As a teacher, I know that parents entrust their child to me, and with that trust they trust me to make the best and right decisions and I believe getting my vaccine was exactly that: the best and the right decision."    

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