Unions Concerned Over Vaccine Delay For Teachers

Teachers in South Africa are next in line to receive Covid-19 vaccines, as half a million Johnson & Johnson vaccines doses have been secured for them but await authorisation from the FDA in the USA. Naptosa welcomes the rollout but expresses concern over the delay of the authorisation. 

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Teachers' unions have confirmed that teachers, cleaners and various school staff around South Africa could be vaccinated against Covid-19 this month. ‎National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) executive director Basil Manuel said at least 500 000 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine doses have been secured for the education sector. 

The J&J vaccine does however await approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. Manuel has expressed concern over the delay of this approval as the doses have a window of two weeks for distribution and administration around the country, as this is when the doses may expire. 

"We are a little stressed at the moment, a little concerned because there are these delays from the FDA... but we live in eternal hope," Manuel told Newzroom Afrika. 

Manuel said that the beneficiaries of the vaccine would include all teaching and non-teaching staff in the public sector, including school governing body-funded personnel and the staff of teachers’ unions. The personnel who are over 40 are said to be first in line to receive the vaccine. 

Manuel says that the 500 000 doses should be enough to cover the sector as there may be those who opt to not be vaccinated.  

"There will also be people who are anti-vaxxers and who don't want to take it although we are encouraging everybody to queue up and take it," he said. 

NAPTOSA partnered with the other teachers' unions to carry out a survey to find out what the teachers attitudes towards the vaccine are and it found that 75% of teachers would be taking the vaccine while a small percentage said that they were still undecided. 

Manuel says that the teachers' unions plan to campaign to encourage people to consider taking the vaccine as it may be one of the best options which allows those with comorbidities especially to get back into the classroom safely and healthily. 

Unions have welcomed the rollout of the vaccines as a large amount of teachers lost their lives due to Covid-19 over the past year especially during the second wave of the coronavirus in South Africa. 

Educators Union of SA provincial chairperson André de Bruyn says that they hoped that the vaccines would not expire soon. 

“Where will the government find all these vaccines, as we are unsure at the moment if the FDA approved the J&J vaccines as being safe?” he questioned. 

He said the union would hold its stance that no full-capacity classes should commence unless teachers are offered vaccines. 

The FDA has said that some batches of the J&J vaccine were not fit to use while others were still under review. However, two batches have been approved but it is unclear how many that covers and where those are to be sent. 

Those J&J vaccines which are ready to be distributed from the Gqebherha plant in the Eastern Cape are said to be assessed further by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) according to the ministry of health's statement. 

“There is now a real possibility that they may not be [suitable for use], however this is for the regulator to rule on,” the ministry said.

They added, however, that 300 000 J&J doses have been cleared to be shipped to the country "as an extreme matter of urgency."

“Furthermore, the FDA announced that, after careful evaluation of these doses, they approved an extension of the expiry date after determining that the vaccine can be stored in 2-8 °C (normal bar fridge) for 4.5 months instead of 3 months," said the statement. 

 

 

 

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