Close to 50 homeless people went for their Covid vaccines last Friday at U-Turn Ministries in Claremont.
The pop-up vaccine drive was a joint venture with the Claremont Improvement District and the Hope Exchange, with support from the provincial Department of Health, according to U-Turn’s chief operations officer Jonathan Hopkins.
It was an opportunity for those homeless people with no IDs to get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, he said. “When they do come for vaccines, it will be at their own choice,” he stressed.
U-turn outreach worker Fikiswa Maqhashu said some of the homeless were informed about the vaccine and wanted to get it but did not know where to go as they had no IDs. She had explained to them that they did not need to have an ID, and their name and date of birth would do if they didn’t know their ID number.
Sister Yvette Andrews, of the Metro District Health Services, was supervising the vaccination process on site. “It is not just about vaccinating the street people; it is about respecting all citizens who are eligible to be vaccinated and need our help,” she said.
Sister Andrews said the homeless had been given vaccination cards to show that they had had their jabs.
“They can request that the homeless shelter keep it in safe keeping for them,” she said.
Paresh Natha, 52, who stays at the Loaves and Fishes shelter in Observatory, said he had taken the vaccine to protect himself and others around him. “I had my reservations as there were various conspiracy theories about the vaccine, though now I believe it is the right thing to do,” he said.
Beryl Swets, 56, who stays at The Haven Night Shelter District Six, said she had been a little scared of getting the vaccine. “I heard people who took the vaccine got sick from it, though the shelter gave us good information and asked us if we would go for the vaccine.”
Ms Swets, originally from Retreat, said she was still worried about getting Covid-19. “I will still continue to wear my masks and do physical distancing,” she said.
Shireen Erasmus, 28, also from The Haven in District Six, had similar concerns about the vaccine but said she had come to realise that she needed it. “I would still want people to continue to wear masks even after getting the vaccine,” she said.
Vaccine hesitancy was keeping vaccination numbers low among the homeless, Mr Hopkins said.
“We know that people who are homeless may not have access to television, radio, internet or paid newspapers, so it should be various organisations that should play a role in advising them of the importance of getting the vaccine.”
Provincial Department of Health spokeswoman Natalie Watlington said mobile outreach teams would continue efforts to get vaccines to vulnerable groups, including the homeless. “Recently reported data confirmed the effectiveness of vaccines when it comes to reducing hospitalisation and death,” she said.
According to data from the department, 92% of the 2455 people who caught Covid-19 in the third-wave peak from Saturday August 14 to Friday August 20, were not fully vaccinated; 96% of those needing hospitalisation were not fully vaccinated; and 98% of the 292 people who died from Covid were not fully vaccinated.