The vaccination of healthcare workers will ensure that there is a stable workforce to further fight the Covid-19 pandemic. This is according to Dr Samantha Potgieter, an infectious disease expert at the Universitas Academic Hospital and the first local health-care worker to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
One of the first batches of vaccines were administered in Bloemfontein last week as part of the Department of Health’s drive to get as many medical workers as possible to get electively vaccinated. This is before vaccines will be available to the broader public.
“The idea was to vaccinate a few people to make sure everything is in place. To check our systems, to make sure we can safely vaccinate others. It is extremely important to vaccinate health-care workers I think, not only are we trying to protect our healthcare workers from occupational exposure to Covid-19 as they are obviously at high risk of occupational exposure but you also want to preserve a workforce,” said Dr Potgieter.
Free State MEC of Health, Montseng Tsiu, a nurse herself by profession, also took the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at the hospital. The department aims to vaccinate about 67% of the Free State population in order to achieve heard immunity against the rampant virus.
“The department encourages health care workers to voluntarily enlist to be vaccinated as part of the national drive to build herd immunity. Building a herd immunity in the Free State means that 67% of the population, which is 1.9 million of the 2.9 million in the Free State, will be vaccinated to ensure that they are safe from getting the virus,” explained spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi.
Dr Potgieter is also an affiliated lecturer in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of the Free State, and like many of her fellow health-care workers, works tirelessly in the Covid-19 ward at the Universitas Hospital. She expressed her gratitude and excitement to be part of the very first people in the province to receive the vaccine.
“I am grateful to Dr Pearce and his team for setting up this vaccine station for us at the Universitas Hospital.”
Dr Nicholas Pearce, Head of Surgery at the UFS as well as Head of Provincial Covid-19-Task Team, explained that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was rolled out as part of a 3B clinical trial. The vaccination of health-care workers is part of an extension of the study and the vaccine has not yet been registered with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), according to the UFS.
“It is vital to vaccinate health-care workers to prevent staff members from getting ill and dying. So, it is a critical process, as all health-care workers are key people we have to protect in terms of the fight against Covid-19,” Dr Pearce said.