KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has described the vaccination of the first of the province’s healthcare workers in Durban as a watershed moment in the fight against Covid-19.
Zikalala, who officially launched the province’s vaccination rollout programme at Durban’s Prince Mshiyeni hospital on Thursday morning, said the vaccinations sent a strong message that the days of the pandemic were numbered.
“We believe that this day will be remembered by generations to come as the day on which KwaZulu-Natal made a giant leap towards turning the tide against the deadly Covid-19 virus.
“Today marks an important step on our journey to defeat and eventually conquer this silent and invisible killer, which has caused so much devastation,” he said.
The vaccines given to healthcare workers at the Prince Mshiyeni hospital were part of the 80 000 Johnson & Johnson doses which arrived in the country on Monday.
Zikalala assured the healthcare workers that the Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been tested and found to be both efficacious and safe.
Prince Mshiyeni hospital doctor, Dr Nerika Maharaj, who became the first healthcare worker to be vaccinated in the province, said her decision to participate in the programme was motivated by the need to allay fears around the vaccines.
“A lot of people are afraid to take the vaccine. I want to empower other people. I even posted a message on social media calling on everyone to be vaccinated,” she said.
Nondumiso Gamede, one of the nurses who was part of the first group of healthcare workers in the province to be vaccinated, said while she was worried about the possible side effects, “I think the benefits far outweigh these".
With over 300 000 infections and 9 373 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic in March, KZN is the second worst hit province after Gauteng.
Zikalala said the beginning of the vaccination process creates the hope that KZN people are on the verge of clawing back to their normal lives.
“Today, with the arrival of the vaccine, we have finally embarked on that important journey to reclaim back our lives, and rebuild our province and communities, which have been wrecked by this virus,” he said.