Vaccine Rollout will Include Students

Covid-19 vaccination

Many students at college or varsity live in busy residences, so are being considered for earlier vaccine rollouts. These plans, along with the plans for medical students who are working in hospitals, were presented at the Higher Health webinar for the post-school education sector's Covid-19 vaccine strategy. 

On the 27th of January 2021, Higher Health from the Department of Higher Education and Training held an online webinar in which Dr Lesley Bamford presented the framework of vaccine rollout in South Africa. 

Dr Bamford's presentation highlighted some very important issues of which the highlights, with specific reference to students, will be detailed below. 

Phases of vaccine rollout

Some of the discussions that are happeing right now in the Health Department include questions regarding students and their place in the vacccine rollout. Dr Bamford explained that in terms of "people living in congregate settings there is a proposal, although not finalised that this would include students in institutions of higher learning".

If this proposal is approved, this means residences could be considered congregate settings and therefore students living in residence could receive the vaccine in phase 2 of the rollout. Students who live in residence are often in buildings with hundreds of students who share a dining hall and are likely to come into contact with many others. 

The other important student-related debate is regarding medical students, especially those who are volunteering on the front lines, The question is, should medical students be considered health care workers? Following that, should these medical students be given priority vaccines as healthcare workers are?

Dr Bamford says that are there are currently discussions around this, "health Science Students in their clinical years and [who] are therefore working in our health facilities are also likely to be included during phase 1." 

Regarding the health care students, Minister Blade Nzimande said “the strategy will help to ensure access to vaccination for our students and staff, of which priority for inclusion in the Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout programme are our frontline campus healthcare staff and health sciences students, especially the nursing, medicine and other disciplines.”

Table of vaccine rollout

The minister also said the PSET vaccination strategy will develop a phased road map towards vaccination of all frontline and essential staff, student and staff volunteers, student support structures, as well as staff and students living with comorbidities across all campuses.

The Minister also announced that thousands of peer educators and student volunteers will be trained, with support from student leadership and staff, to render knowledge, education and information to support the massive countrywide vaccination drive.

“I urge our institutions and HIGHER HEALTH to mobilise and capacitate our own healthcare workers, staff and final-year health science students to volunteer to be trained and act as extra hands supporting the Department of Health, as it is impossible for 40 million people to be vaccinated by a single department – we need to play our part as a sector.

“In tandem we will amplify dialogues to address vaccination hesitancy and tackle other myths aimed to mislead our people, like the untruth that COVID-19 is caused by new technologies such as 5G,” Nzimande said.

 

 

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