The KwaZulu-Natal Health department said that over 20 000 of its health workers are still not vaccinated, as infection rates among the province’s health workers are rapidly rising.
While the symptoms of the latest Omicron variant of the coronavirus are mild, these workers cannot be on duty because they have to self isolate.
“We are engaging with those workers, we cannot force anyone to take the vaccine,” said KZN health MEC Nomagugu Simelane.
The department says these workers chose not to be vaccinated since the start of the pandemic last year.
Vaccine demand drops
Simelane noted a drastic decline in demand for vaccinations since the start of December. “We moved from around 20 000 vaccinations per weekday to less than 10 000,” she said.
So far 2,735 million people have been vaccinated, while a staggering 4,484 million remain unprotected, a large portion of which are black people when compared to other races.
Simelane’s blamed this low uptake among Black South Africans on the spread of misinformation.
“The vaccine will not make you a satanist, cannibal or lead to infertility. We must start deciding whether we want to believe the people who study science or street scientists,” said Simelane.
Beach pop-up sites prove unpopular
As holidaymakers and returning residents flock to the province, the health department has had to come up with more strategies to bring up the number of vaccinated people.
One strategy is implementing pop-up sites at busy locations and tourist hotspots like the beach.
Beach pop-up sites were installed on Friday, but bathers were less than impressed. Only 5 people got jabbed for the entire weekend.
“By the end of yesterday (Monday), there were 2 496 new infections. On Sunday there were 4 135 new cases. On Saturday, 4 202 new infections were recorded while on Friday we had a staggering 5 134,” said Simelane.
She’s also appealed to holidaymakers, returning residents and current residents to be socially responsible. Simelane said there has been an increase in large gatherings with people not wearing masks, making social distancing virtually impossible.
Simelane reminded everyone that health workers have been on duty since the start of the pandemic, and cannot handle additional strain in the form of accidents and alcohol-related injuries.
She also cautioned against having unprotected sex amid the December merriment, saying that women will be paying the price in September when the province experiences its highest birth rates.