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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Teachers share mixed emotions about being vaccinated


Some teachers are still undecided on whether they will be vaccinated while others are excited that they will finally get the jab. 

The mixed reactions come as the basic education vaccination programme starts on Wednesday.

Inside Education spoke to a number of teachers about how they feel about being vaccinated. 

A Free State teacher said he is “nervous” about the inoculation.

“The real reason is because of the things we hear in the media that people who are vaccinated come back complaining or sick,” he said.

He added that other teachers who are older are also nervous.

“We do not know whether it is the real vaccine. There was also that one from PE (sic) that was contaminated. So, we are not sure whether this one is the right one. The whole thing about the vaccination does not sit right with us,” he said.

Adding that he received a text message two weeks ago asking whether or not I was going to take the vaccine.

“I said I would – we do not have a choice. I am sceptical but I am going to take it.

“Eish, but I’m still sceptical. I wish I could get conclusive evidence that it is going to work,” said the teacher. 

A teacher in the Eastern Cape said some of them have lost friends and colleagues through this virus, “and it would have been better if we had been vaccinated sooner. We would have not lost those people,” said the teacher. 

Another said there was an air of excitement at his school. 

“We are ready. People are excited. Let it come, we have been waiting for a long time for this vaccine,” said the teacher. 

A primary school teacher in the Eastern Cape said she has been waiting patiently for the vaccine and is ready: “I can’t wait for our turn. Let it come, we will deal with the aftereffects if there are any,” she said.  

Another said their fear of needles is making them not to be excited about the inoculation. 

 I feel nothing about being vaccinated.  I am not sure I will be vaccinated,  I’m still a bit scared,” said a young teacher at a school in KwaZulu-Natal.

“I hate needles,” she said. Adding that if there was an alternative – such as taking a pill, she would do so without a doubt.

“I’m still contemplating. I’m not saying I’m not going to be vaccinated but I’m still contemplating,” she said.

Another teacher from the Free State teacher said in order to save lives they needed to be vaccinated.

“People are saying this and that about the vaccine but if it is for our benefit as teachers and learners then we will take it,” said the teacher.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Saturday that the sector’s vaccination programme would start on Wednesday and run until 8 July.

She said the sector is expected to vaccinate about 582 000 people and the majority of these are teachers in public schools.

According to reports, there are 395 682 teachers that will be vaccinated. Those to be vaccinated in this programme will receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The educators vaccination programme began amid high spikes of infection rates across the country.

READ: Limpopo education department concerned about the number of coronavirus cases at schools

Just last week, 1077 teachers and 1977 learners tested positive in Gauteng.

On Monday, the education department in Limpopo said it saw a sharp increase of reported Covid-19 cases in the at schools particularly in the Capricorn District.

In May, the South African Democratic Teachers Union said over 3500 teachers succumbed to the virus. The union called for teachers to be prioritised similar to other frontline workers.

But there is still some confusion.

Some teachers have said more clarity is needed regarding the safety of the vaccines.

A deputy principal at a school in KwaZulu-Natal told Inside Education, “We do not know whether there are side effects. I still have not made up my mind.” 

The issue of safety and contamination of the vaccines was recently realised.

Last week, 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. 

READ: Unions wait in bated breath for details on the vaccination of educators

The destruction of the vaccines came after an announcement by the United States Food and Drug Administration that some batches of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced at the Emergent BioSolutions Plant in Baltimore in America were contaminated.

This issue was quickly resolved. In a statement, Aspen said it will provide 300 000 doses of the vaccine for South African teachers that were not impacted by the contamination. 

READ: Announcement on teacher vaccination to be made this week

On Saturday the acting Director-General for the department of basic education, Granville Whittle reiterated that people who work in schools and who are 60 and above qualify to be vaccinated in the sector’s vaccination programme even though they qualify in the programme that is currently run for the general population. 

According to the department of basic education, there will be 281 sites nationally and by the end of the two weeks 90 480 jabs would have been administered. 

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