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Government unveils vaccination programme for Higher Education

Caleb Tayi

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has announced the formal commencement of the COVID-19 vaccination programme for the post-schooling education and training sector (PSET).

Addressing the media on the COVID-19 vaccination roll out for the PSET sector, the Minister said government will be rolling out the Pfizer vaccine across all institutions in the major metros where there is good access to cold storage facilities.

“We will be rolling out J&J vaccines across our rural districts as this requires cold storage facilities at higher temperatures than Pfizer and other mRNA vaccines,” Nzimande said on Friday.

The vaccination of PSET staff that are 35 years of age and above will formally commence on Saturday, 24 July 2021. This age group, which comprises approximately 70% of all staff in the sector, is expected to be completed within a month.

“So tomorrow, some of our colleges and universities, such as the staff of False Bay Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College at a site in Woodstock, South West Gauteng TVET College at a site in Roodeport, Tshwane North TVET College at a site in Centurion, University of Johannesburg at a site in Midrand will commence vaccinations simultaneously.

“Higher Health has made provisions with each site fully dedicated to vaccinate about 300 to 1000 people per day per site. Higher Health will be supporting the sites on the days of vaccination,” the Minister said.

A further 12 additional sites across Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town, Gqeberha and eThekwini starting will open from Monday, 26 July.

This will cover over 120 000 staff from universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges and Community Education and Training (CET) colleges in the next two to three weeks.

“These same sites will be extended to private institutions, skills learning sector, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), National Skills Fund (NSF) with a range of skills development providers.

“In this coming week, Higher Health will open an additional 40 to 50 vaccination sites with the Department of Health, across all other districts, for staff populations between 600 and 4000 to be vaccinated,” the Minister said.

Through Higher Health, the department will connect each institution with the nearest Department of Health accredited site where vaccine supplies and vaccinators are in place.

“I therefore call on all staff from the age of 35 – fulltime, part-time, contracted staff (cleaning staff and security) and post-graduate students in teaching positions that are planned for this phase to come out in numbers to be vaccinated through the PSET and the community vaccination programme.

“Staff younger than 35 and students who live in residences, including in private accommodation, are earmarked for vaccination in Phase 2b that will kick start once the above 35 [year-olds] are completed,” the Minister said.

He emphasised the importance of everyone who becomes eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to take up the chance to get vaccinated.

“There is a fundamental need to address the myths, fake news, misinformation and misconceptions around vaccination.

“Guided by the PSET vaccine plan, I have asked Higher Health to develop a comprehensive communication strategy that involves all stakeholders within the PSET sector so that jointly we can mitigate vaccine hesitancy and other misinformation prevalent in our communities and society at large,” the Minister said.

He said that vaccines used in South Africa have been proven to be effective and safe.

“I would like to remind all of us that the key principles of beating COVID have not changed: social distancing; minimising personal contact; wearing a mask; sanitising and now vaccinating,” the Minister said.

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