Following heavy criticism for its blunder in procuring COVID-19 vaccines, Gauteng Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo said the country now had more than enough jabs but faced a new challenge of vaccine fatigue.
The MEC addressed hundreds of taxi industry employees at a vaccine mobile facility at the Noord Taxi Rank in Joburg on Thursday.
The provincial leadership has raised concern about the rate of vaccination, prompting the move to take the message to the people.
Over 130 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered at the mobile vaccination site in one of the busiest taxi ranks in the province but after an afternoon slump, taxi marshalls took matters into their own hands to encourage the public to receive their jabs.
“Free COVID jabs here,” the taxi official was heard on a loudspeaker.
The call to vaccinate has also been amplified by Mamabolo who said the rollout in the sector had been marred by misinformation and caused stigma among some drivers.
“The saddest things that I heard here was one driver who said after he took the vaccine, he was stigmatised; people didn’t want to come close to him. His colleagues were keeping a distance away from him because he took the vaccine. That tells you how deep the perceptions are amongst them.”
To date, Gauteng has administered over 2.3 million vaccines.
Taxi associations, including ATA, Baracity, and Santaco and have thrown their weight behind the Gauteng Transport Department’s efforts to inoculate its members and the public.
Mamabolo said while he’s impressed with the turnout of residents and drivers at the mobile vaccination site, he acknowledged that they were the deeply rooted perceptions among the sectors members, which have made them reluctant to bare their arms.
“The damage done by false information and fake news has affected the rate at which people are coming for vaccines. There are also historical cultural beliefs about the vaccine.”
District manager and healthcare worker Lombuso Matlatla said some of the concerns voiced by taxi drivers on Thursday was the fear that vaccines could cause impotency.
“Others have also indicated that as men, they’ve heard that if you are vaccinated you sort of become impotent. So, this needs us to give them more information, educate them and also allay their anxiety.”
Meanwhile, the Western Cape Department of Health said there was early signs that the province was starting to exit from the third wave peak as COVID-19 cases were declining.
There are currently over 46,300 active cases in the province and more than 3,600 people in hospital with the virus.
Western Cape head of health Dr Keith Cloete said case numbers had started to decrease, hospitalizations had dropped by 8% and deaths had declined by 17% week-on-week.
“We are seeing the early signs of small percentage decreases according to some of our indicators. So we have an average of 2,800 new infections a day, 320 admissions a day and the deaths have now decreased to 100 per day.”
But he warned that there is still a high number of active cases, despite the small drop, and added there’s still pressure on hospitals.
“There’s quite a few clusters, particularly relating to schools, lots of family clusters.”
Cloete has also highlighted the West Coast, saying in the third wave they were seeing in terms of case numbers in each of the small towns were increasing.
The department said the third wave had been longer, flatter, and more delayed compared to previous waves.
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