Government leaders should take the Covid-19 vaccine in public in order to debunk myths surrounding the vaccine and to show citizens it is safe.
That was the call made by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane in Bhisho on Tuesday, during a media briefing on Covid-19 organised by the Eastern Cape government.
The call comes as the province is “gearing up” to vaccinate 3.7 million people in order to achieve herd immunity to defeat Covid-19.
“I urge people to stop listening to misinformation about the vaccine. We start with healthcare workers and [the] elderly because we want to protect them and when my turn comes, I will also vaccinate.
“This is something that we should do, even if it means as leaders we have to vaccinate publicly. We must do that without delay to show people that the vaccine we procured for them is safe,” Mabuyane said.
“We have lost and we continue to lose our loved ones to the virus, but there is hope. Scientists have finally developed a vaccine to stop the virus. The vaccine will help us achieve herd immunity to prevent infections, morbidity and mortality,” Mabuyane said.
“While we continue with the mass testing in our province, we are also gearing ourselves [up] for the vaccination programme.
“The success of this programme depends on the hands-on approach of all of us in the province,” he added.
“We call on all the people of the province in their sectors or in positions of authority to support this programme. The vaccine is safe and has been tested to ensure its safety.
‘We will never distribute a vaccine that is not tested and that is not safe for our people. We have to achieve herd immunity to defeat the virus,” Mabuyane said.
The Eastern Cape government has said it was expecting the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine to be distributed by the national government.
Mabuyane said the Department of Education will make schools available as vaccination centres, as it did with voting stations during the elections.
He added that churches, community halls and other public buildings will also be used as temporary vaccination sites.
President Cyril Ramaphosa recently announced that the country had secured 20 million vaccine doses to combat the coronavirus, which was expected to be delivered “mainly” in the first half of the year.
Mabuyane revealed that 292 people tested positive for Covid-19 at the Eastern Cape’s 24 matric script marking centres.
He said they were replaced by markers who tested negative for Covid-19.
South Africa is in the grip of the second wave of Covid-19, with the national death toll at 37,449 and more than 1.3 million positive cases.
The Eastern Cape has the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the country at 9 510.
But Mabuyane said: “There is a general decrease in the number of active cases, daily infections and… the recovery rate is 92.2% – way above the national average of 82%.
“Our province has recorded the lowest daily new cases in the country in the past seven days, at an average of 13% per 100 000 [people]. However, there remains the need for increased surveillance and vigilance to ensure that the gains are not temporary.”
Mabuyane said there was hope that the virus will be defeated due to “bold decision[s]” taken to restrict certain activities during the festive season.
“We are seeing a reduction in infections in many parts of our province, particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay, which was a hotspot for a long time.”
Nelson Mandela Bay currently has 324 active cases and a recovery rate of 94%.
Mabuyane said this was an important development because the region contributes immensely to the economy of the province.