The Department of Basic Education is this week expected to announce a date on when teachers will be vaccinated.
Spokesperson for the department, Elijah Mhlanga, told Inside Education on Monday that the department has been in meetings with the Department of Health and talks are at an advanced stage regarding the vaccination of teachers.
“There is progress. We met with health today and an announcement is going to be made this week,” said Mhlanga.
In a statement on Monday pharmaceutical company Aspen, said it was disappointed that specific batches of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine manufactured at its plant in Gqeberha had to be destroyed.
This comes after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Friday that some batches of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines produced at the Emergent BioSolutions Plant in Baltimore in America were contaminated.
“[This is] due to the ‘Good Manufacturing Practice’ risk of isolated material in the drug substance supplied to Aspen by Johnson & Johnson from their contract manufacturing partner in the USA, Emergent. The batches manufactured had been retained in storage awaiting the outcome of the US FDA [Food and Drug Administration] assessment of Emergent.
“This is not only a setback to both the Aspen and Johnson & Johnson teams who have worked tirelessly to ensure the manufacture of these batches, but more importantly, has the potential to negatively impact the vaccine rollout across South Africa and Africa,” reads the statement.
However, the company further said that within days Aspen would provide 300 000 doses of the vaccine for South African teachers. These are not impacted by the contamination.
Mhlanga also told Inside Education that the sector “will more likely benefit from the 300 000 vaccines cleared for use in South Africa”.
The vaccination will happen as primary schools and special education needs schools are expected to receive back all learners on 26 July. There is currently a rotation system in place.
However, on Thursday Julius Malema, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president called for schools to be closed with “immediate effect”. Malema said this needed to happen because more and more learners are testing positive for the virus. He said the party would give Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, seven days to respond to their call or the party would shut down schools.
Mhlanga said the EFF had written to Motshekga calling for schools to be closed and had asked her to respond to the party by Thursday. He said the department would respond to the party by its deadline.
In the past week, the Northern Cape department of education said it had recorded 103 positive cases and 69 of these were from learners, while the Gauteng department said in the past week 1977 learners tested positive in the last week.
Two weeks ago, Inside Education reported on a letter that had been written by the Head of Health in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, addressed to the Head of Education Enock Nzama about the vaccination of educators. Tshabalala said the national department of education has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines would be made available in the next week and that “most of which should be used for educators”.
“The target group is basic education (all staff members of primary and secondary schools). It is expected that the dedicated vaccination sites for educators will be ready by Wednesday, 9th June 2021, and the vaccination period will be for two weeks,” read the letter.
Teacher unions also told Inside Education, two weeks ago, that they had written to the national departments of health and education asking that teachers be prioritised for vaccination this month.
There are about 400 000 teachers in the system.