Healthcare workers’ protection against Covid gets a boost

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo applauds James Hlohla, the first person to get vaccine booster shot.

Healthcare workers who were part of the Sisonke vaccination trial lined up for their jabs at Khayelitsha District Hospital last week when the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme kicked off.

While this leg of the programme is restricted to healthcare workers, in the near future, all those who have been vaccinated will also have to get a booster.

Among those who got their boosters last week were traditional healers and hospital security guards – and Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo was there to encourage men, in particular, and those over 50 to get vaccinated.

Dr Mbombo said around 90 000 health-care workers in the Western Cape had been part of the Sisonke 1 implementation study.

“I am glad that our health care workers are getting the booster. These are people that need to be protected at all costs. These are the first people who were vaccinated as part of a trial.

“The evidence does show that J&J, although it is a one dose, unlike Pfizer, in six to eight months it does wear off. We now urge people to get the booster,” she said.

She added that her department wanted to roll out the booster programme before the fourth wave of infections which is expected to start in December.

Dr Mbombo said while it was national government policy that those with terminal illnesses would qualify for the booster, there had not yet been a pronouncement regarding its availability to the general public.

However, the Health MEC is still concerned about the number of people that have not been vaccinated. “We still urge people to come forward and get their vaccine. We are concerned especially about men. Those who are 50 years and above are too reluctant. They must come forward,” she said.

Traditional healer James Hlohla, who was the first person to get a booster on Wednesday, appealed to traditional healers to also encourage people to be vaccinated.

“It is important for them to realise that a vaccine is not a cure but a protective measure. We have traditional herbs to cure this sickness but this is for people to be protected,” he said.

He admitted that there were stubborn traditional healers who just did not want the vaccine. He appealed in particular to the “stubborn” traditional healers who didn’t want to get vaccinated, to help prepare people for the next wave of infections.

Doctor Austin Goliath from the KDH, said while there had been a lot of controversy around the booster shots he had decided to take it because he works with people and the booster is the only “armour” he has. “I believe everyone should take it. We need to be protected,” he said.

Meanwhile Khayelitsha Health Forum (KHF) chairperson, Mzanywa Ndibongo said they were planning to have imbizo with men to iron out the issues concerning the vaccine.

“Before the end of year, we need to have a word with men and discuss these issues.Men are reluctant to take the jab because there is a lack of proper information,” he said.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo gets a warm welcome at the Khayelitsha District Hospital last Wednesday.
Health care workers queue to get their booster shots.