Dept not capable of performing parallel vaccinations – NEHAWU

Union concerned that second phase starts without conclusion of the first, which missed its target

NEHAWU statement on the launch of the second phase of vaccination

17 May 2021

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) notes the launching of the second phase of the vaccination programme by the National Health Council led by the Minister of Health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize.

As NEHAWU, we are still very concerned that the second phase starts without the conclusion of the first phase which focused on frontline workers. Our concern is based on the fact that the vaccination of frontline workers was very slow and missed its target of vaccinating 1.25 million frontline workers, instead as of yesterday a mere 478 733 workers were vaccinated.

The national union is not convinced that the department has the capacity to perform a parallel vaccination programme which will focus on finishing off phase one while also starting off the second phase. A parallel program will require more workers to perform the vaccination including opening more vaccination sites and procuring more jabs. We strongly believe that this will slow down the program even more and will have dire consequences for frontline workers who must still serve as the backbone of our national response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Minister made a commitment to reach the targeted 1.25 million frontline workers by the end of the week. This means that the department will vaccinate around 750 000 frontline workers in a space of seven days. In our eyes this is an unrealistic target as in a space of months they only vaccinated just less than 500 000 frontline workers. We believe that this is not the time to make unrealistic promises but rather a time to restrategize in order to get the program back on track.

It is crystal clear that the department did not learn anything from the first and second wave of COVID-19 transmissions. The department is still not prioritising the health and safety of frontline workers as the people at the coalface of fighting the pandemic. We hold a strong view that the department and the government should have focused on concluding the first phase instead of commencing a new phase without positive results from the first one.

NEHAWU as part of defending its members and workers will demand the Department of Health and the government expeditiously conclude the first phase including putting measures in place to guarantee the health and safety of frontline workers as we head into the third wave of COVID-19 transmissions.

An urgent meeting will be convened with the Minister to raise these issues very sharply including the preparation of our healthcare system for the third wave of infections. As an important stakeholder we have an obligation to hold the department accountable as and when we notice sloppiness especially when it compromises our members and workers. 

Issued by Khaya Xaba, National Spokesperson, NEHAWU, 17 May 2021