The KwaZulu-Natal department of health has joined forces with the Denis Hurley Centre in Durban to vaccinate undocumented foreign nationals and homeless people.
The centre’s director, Raymond Perrier, said the department recognised the vaccination programme had to be inclusive and whether people had documents or not should not be a factor for vaccinations.
“The department has come up with a system which enables them to log the information about someone, which is usually a person’s name and date of birth,” he said.
“This is a way of tracking the vaccine and those details are solely for the department of health and cannot be shared with any other government department.”
Director of the HIV/Aids programme at KwaZulu-Natal department of health Penny Dladla said they have been vaccinating undocumented nationals at Dennis Hurley Centre.
Perrier said the centre vaccinated 40 to 50 people a day.
“We have vaccinated 200 people so far. This was not only for undocumented citizens, but for many homeless who don’t have identity documents,” he said.
“Carrying out the pilot programme was easy because we already worked with homeless people and foreign nationals who trust us.”
Epidemiologist Dr Jo Barnes said the fear of one of SA’s most marginalised communities, the undocumented foreign nationals, that they could be spied upon if their data are entered into state data bases, were not unfounded.
“These people have no believable guarantee they will not jeopardise their stay in the country if they get vaccinated. This forms a formidable barrier to get them vaccinated.”
Barnes said having many foreign nationals unvaccinated formed a big hole in the vaccination security net, particularly in many poor communities where most of them lived.
“Undocumented foreign nationals are a special case since they do not have identity documents or similar proof of identity so they can be entered into the government data base,” she said.
“Something similar will affect those South African citizens without IDs. There are a lot more efforts needed from all walks of life to persuade people to get vaccinated.”
Perrier said the Denis Hurley Centre was working with different community organisations and had plans of branching out in rural areas where there are large communities of undocumented people to make sure they have access to the vaccine.