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02 February 2021

Hospersa, a Union with more than 60 000 members in both the public and private health sector, has welcomed the arrival of the first consignment of the COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa.  The Union has encouraged its members to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated in the first phase and has called on the Department of Health (DoH) to accelerate education efforts about the vaccine to alleviate fears and uncertainty around its safety.  Hospersa has also slammed President Ramaphosa’s announcement of the proposed nomination of Cuban doctors for the Nobel Peace Prize citing that the country’s health workers are more deserving of the nomination after their tireless efforts in keeping the country’s depleted health sector afloat with little support and recognition.  The Union adds that government needs to fully recognise and appreciate the country’s health workers for the successful roll-out of the vaccination campaign.

Yesterday afternoon, President Ramaphosa, Vice-President Mabuza and Minister [of Health] Mkhize welcomed one million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines at OR Tambo International Airport.  This first consignment marked a historic beginning to South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination programme which aims to vaccinate about 40 million citizens by the end 2021.  Health workers will be first in line to receive a vaccine “jab” in two weeks’ time after the one million consignment has undergone a technical process of quarantine and quality assurance by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).  Hospersa has encouraged its members to take up the opportunity of being vaccinated first and has also called on government to improve on its communication efforts regarding the vaccine’s safety and benefits.

“Hospersa welcomes the arrival of the vaccines to boost the country’s fight against COVID-19,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines. “We encourage our members in the frontline to take up the opportunity of being vaccinated in the first phase as medical experts and scientists have given the green light to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as being effective against COVID-19.  Members are also reminded of their right to refuse to take the vaccine if they are not comfortable to do so,” added Desfontaines.

“We call on the Department of Health to boost its communication programme about the vaccination process, especially to health workers,” said Desfontaines.  “Vaccinations in general are supposed to be part of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) programmes for all health workers but many of them have not seen a vibrant OHS programme, inclusive of vaccines, in their workplaces.  This lack of OHS programmes causes mistrust and provides a breeding ground for uncertainties on the effectiveness of vaccinations,” argued Desfontaines.

Last night, President Ramaphosa addressed the nation and announced that the country would be moving to an adjusted level 3 regulation amid the rising COVID-19 cases.  The President also announced that South Africa’s cabinet has approved the proposal to nominate the Cuban Medical Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of the selfless and unwavering assistance of the government and people of Cuba.  The Cuban Medical Brigade arrived in South Africa early last year with a reported salary price tag of close to R250 million.  Hospersa has slammed this proposed nomination and branded it as another slap in the face of South African health workers who continue to labour in difficult working conditions.

“We reject the President’s proposed nomination of the Cuban Medical Brigade ahead of our own health professionals for the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Desfontaines.  “Our health workers have shown great resilience to weather the COVID-19 storm in a sector characterised by staff shortages, poor infrastructure, insufficient Personal Protective Equipment and lack of psychological support caused by the anxiety of their jobs, especially during a pandemic.  Their efforts are nothing short of a miracle and deserve the highest recognition,” added Desfontaines.

“The successful roll-out of the vaccination programme requires government to fully recognise and appreciate the country’s health workers,” said Desfontaines.  “Their concerns regarding the vaccination programme can no longer fall on deaf ears as they will become the ambassadors of this programme and will be a crucial voice in advocating the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine to communities.  Failure, to address their concerns puts the entire vaccination programme ‘on ice’ before even the first jab can be administered,” concluded Desfontaines.



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