Healthcare workers disappointed as AstraZeneca vaccine rollout put on hold

Some nurses said that they wished that government had not rushed into the vaccination process and over-committed itself to healthcare workers.

FILE: A hospital worker walks amongst patients in the COVID-19 ward at Khayelitsha Hospital, about 35km from the centre of Cape Town, on 29 December 2020. The patents in this ward are not critically serious, but do require oxygen and to lie down. Picture: Rodger Bosch/AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Healthcare workers said that they were disappointed that the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout program had hit a snag.

New data shows that the jab offers minimal protection against mild to moderate infections caused by the dominant second variant of the coronavirus.

"It's a slap in the face. It's a joke, really, it's a serious joke," a nurse said of the delay.

Many healthcare workers have registered for their AstraZeneca vaccine and were expecting to line up for the jab over the next few days but the excitement has been dampened somewhat.

A Western Cape nurse said that she knew that she had to stay positive as scientists figured out the next step.

"I want to be pro-vaccine. We need to lead our communities and show them we are willing to fight for them and be there for them."

READ: PSA: Govt must go to India and get back the money paid for vaccines

A Limpopo nurse said that she was not surprised and was feeling let down by government.

"I'm worried about taxpayers' money that is being used in this negligent way."

But experts said that there was still hope and the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be discarded as options were on the table to use it in conjunction with other inoculations while adding that the AstraZeneca inoculation might be rolled out in the country in a step-wise manner.

WATCH: SA's AstraZeneca vaccine rollout on hold; J&J vaccine effective against variant


Healthcare workers said that they hoped government had learned some valuable lessons about vaccines after the AstraZeneca rollout hit a stumbling block.

Denosa's president Simon Hlungwani said that although it was disappointing that healthcare workers would not get their first jabs as early as this week, government could not be blamed for the setback.

"It is disappointing. Rather than giving people pseudo-protection, rather be safe than sorry."

Hlungwani has, however, urged government to improve its planning to avoid similar disappointment with future vaccines.

READ: It would be reckless for SA to discard AstraZeneca vaccines - Mahdi

Meanwhile, some nurses said that they wished that government had not rushed into the vaccination process and over-committed itself to healthcare workers.

"We all want an effective vaccine but why not take out time with researching before buying big bulk [orders of vaccines]. Someone must be held accountable," one nurse said.

"It's sad, honestly. I had colleagues who were eager to take the vaccine, older colleagues, people with families and kids... It's such a letdown."

With the vaccine rollout programme having hit a snag, scientists are trying to obtain more data on how the AstraZeneca vaccine can be used with other vaccines.

Experts have also clarified that the April expiry date on the vaccines could be amended when more data around shelf-life is available.

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