The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, that the first doses of vaccines will arrive in the country on the 1st February 2021.

The one million doses are from the Serum Institute in India (SII) which is providing the country with 1.5 million doses which will be used to inoculate healthcare workers across the country. The vaccines arrives at a time when healthcare workers are losing their lives to the virus at an alarming rate. Just last week, NEHAWU lost 12 members in one week to the virus at the Edendale Hospital, in Pietermaritzburg. Government needs to move with speed with the inoculation in order to avert the loss of more healthcare workers.

The 1.5 million vaccines from the SII will vaccinate only 750 000 healthcare workers if there are no breakages as it is a double jab vaccine. In this regard, we call on government to continue to work hard in securing for more vaccines. Those vaccines must be selected based on their safety, efficacy, ease of use, storage, distribution, supply sustainability and cost. We welcome the authorisation of the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the country by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). We hope that this will build public confidence in the vaccines and cancel any misinformation that leads to vaccine hesitancy. Furthermore, we note the announcement by SAHPRA that it will allow a controlled compassionate use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19. We hope that the controlled access will ensure that the product is used properly and limit the black market. More funding must be made available by government to do more research on viruses including building our capacity to develop our own vaccines.

The corona virus is showing no signings of slowing down. Today, the world surpassed the 100 million infections mark while over 2.3 million people have died from the virus. In the country 1 423 578 people have been infected while 41 797 people have lost their lives. The coronavirus has caused unprecedented damages to the economy coupled with an unacceptable number of deaths, job losses, and loss of personal income of millions of our people. Vaccination presents one of the ways that can be used to fight the virus and save lives including livelihoods as well.

NEHAWU will work with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to ensure that the vaccination process runs smooth and guarantee that healthcare workers across the country are vaccinated. We encourage our members and workers to take the vaccine as soon as it is available. Furthermore, we appeal to all South Africans to take the vaccine as it becomes available in order to reach head immunity as the country.

Lastly, we hope the announcement of the arrival of the first doses of the vaccines will not breed complacency. We should all continue to exercise and follow best practices and ways to avoid getting infected by the coronavirus including staying at home, observing social distance, wearing masks that covers both the mouth and nose, and washing hands with soap for 20 seconds or using alcohol based sanitisers.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: