Teachers line up for Covid-19 vaccine protection as jabs roll out to school staff

Teachers and support staff queuing to be screened before receiving their jabs at the Rabasotho community centre in Thembisa.
Teachers and support staff queuing to be screened before receiving their jabs at the Rabasotho community centre in Thembisa.

Excitement, relief and some uncertainty. These were the mixed emotions shared by some education department staff who arrived at the Rabasotho community centre in Thembisa to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations on Wednesday.

Minister Angie Motshekga had arrived at the centre to oversee the process. She was joined by education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who also received his jab at the centre.

Dressed to the nines in all black, with a swanky, sparkling gold brooch, a teacher in her 50s said receiving the Covid-19 vaccine was an “answered prayer”. She preferred not to give her name.

“I am feeling so good and so excited. I feel no fear [of receiving the vaccine],” she said, adding that she was grateful for efforts made by Motshekga to get teachers prioritised for vaccination.

She admitted that until now, turning up each day at school had caused her a lot of anxiety. “At my age, it was difficult handling learners' books. They would write today and I would need to handle them the next day and that was scary,” she said.

She called on teachers who were fearful of getting the jab to cast their fears aside. “I remember when we were still schooling, in primary school, they would come with prevention vaccines, so they should take this vaccine like that,” she added.

A young woman in her 20s, employed as support staff at a local school, was apprehensive. “I am a bit uncomfortable. I am a bit scared of it. I’m not sure how I feel. I would rather have it though, for my own protection,” said the woman, who also declined to be named.

Teachers and school staff are being given the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.

The department of health said about a million vaccines would be made available for teachers and school support staff, with about 700,000 J&J vaccines set to arrive in the country soon. Their vaccination leg will run until July 8.

The Gauteng department of health intends to vaccinate about 125,000 teachers and others employed at schools. 

On social media, educators turned to a Facebook page titled South African Teachers, where hundreds gave their reasons as to why they would, or would not, be taking the vaccine.

Teachers older than 60 who had already received the vaccine offered some comfort and encouragement to those who were expressing fears.

“Don’t be scared, there is nothing wrong. I had a sore throat and headache only for two days,” wrote one educator.