‘Jabs save lives’ - Gauteng Educ Dept alarmed as 9,000 teachers refuse vaccines

The department said 9,113 employees in the sector, including those with comorbidities, had turned down their opportunity to receive their Johnson & Johnson jab.

Teachers wait to get their COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Pinelands Emergency Services site on 23 June 2021. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - The Gauteng Education Department said it's extremely alarmed that more than 9,000 teachers and support staff were refusing to get vaccinated.

The department said 9,113 employees in the sector, including those with comorbidities, had turned down their opportunity to receive their Johnson & Johnson jab.

Last week, the Basic Education Department kicked off its mass vaccination drive to inoculate thousands of teachers, school governing personnel and cleaners to bring some stability to the sector.

The department said while vaccination was voluntary, the increased hesitancy was a threat to the government's efforts to normalise the academic calendar.

Spokesperson Steve Mabona said the unwillingness shown by teachers also impacted the rollout to other sectors in order for the country to develop herd immunity.

“So far, we can confirm that we have vaccinated over 53,000 educators and support staff and the overall figure that we are targeting is about 125,000. It is important that our educators need to take this opportunity because other sectors must also be accommodated.”

HIGH-EXPOSURE JOBS

Meanwhile, teachers who have lined up for their COVID-19 vaccine stressed the benefits of the jab, particularly in the light of their high-exposure jobs.

Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo on Friday visited a vaccination site for educators on the Tygerberg Hospital complex.

More than 20,000 shots had been administered to teachers and support staff since the mass vaccination drive was expanded to include this sector.

Provincial health authorities have warned of a significant rise in new coronavirus cases, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.

Public health experts in the province on Thursday revealed a 51% rise in new COVID-19 cases week-on-week.

Hospital admissions and COVID-related deaths are also climbing in the Western Cape.

Some teachers said they were glad they could sit down for the jab and reduce their chances of falling severely ill.

“I was very scared in doing it and when I saw other people had no symptoms, I decided to,” one teacher said.

This vaccination site is one of three in the City of Cape Town metro. Thirty-one sites have been set up to administer COVID-19 vaccines to this cohort.

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