Teacher vaccinations get going in Pinelands

Eugenia Paulo-Goagoses, from Masiphatisane Primary School, was the first teacher in the province to receive her vaccination. Administering the vaccination is emergency care practitioner Wayne Philander, and in the background, from left, are Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, the provincial health department’s head of operations Dr Saadiq Kariem and WCED head of department Brent Walters.

The Western Cape Education Department is urging teachers to continue going for their vaccinations despite schools closing earlier for the winter break after the country went into a revised level-4 lockdown.

The roll-out of the first teacher vaccinations in the Western Cape kicked off at the Pinelands Metro Emergency Medical Services (EMS) site on Wednesday June 23.

Fifty teaching staff received their Johnson & Johnson jabs at the launch of the site. It was opened by the provincial health department’s operations chief Dr Saadiq Kariem, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer and the WCED’s head of department, Brent Walters.

Dr Kariem said the Pinelands site was the first of two vaccination sites in the metropole for education-sector staff, with the other one at Tygerberg Hospital. Another 27 teacher vaccination sites would be set up in rural areas around the province.

Dr Kariem said they had received 26 400 Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Tuesday June 22 and they were expecting to receive more by today. He was not able to confirm how many more.

Eugenia Paulo-Goagoses, 29, from Masiphatisane Primary School in Vredenberg, travelled all the way from the West Coast to become the first teacher to receive her vaccination.

“I was quite nervous coming for my shot because I don’t like needles, though it was not painful at all, just a numb feeling in my arm,” she said.

Ms Paulo-Goagoses encouraged her colleagues to get vaccinated. “If this is the solution for the crisis, hopefully this can work and our lives can go back to normal,” she said.

Sans Souci Girls’ High School principal Ruschda O’ Shea also received her vaccine jab. “I am excited to get my vaccine because it means that I can do my job now without any interruption or fear,” she said.

Ms O’ Shea said most of her staff had agreed to take the vaccine. “It’s not just about us, it’s about our extended family and the pupils we interact with,” she said.

Sandra Oliver, the Pinelands EMS site manager, said they had 21 vaccination stations. “It’s exciting to open this site for the teachers,” she said, adding that it was history in the making for her team.

Ms Schäfer said teachers had had “to deal with a lot of fear, which is their own fear and the children’s fear and had to adapt to working in a different environment and changing their timetables and keeping their classes small”.

The Pinelands site can administer 1 100 vaccinations a day and the Tygerberg Hospital site will be able to do a further 1 400.

Ms Schäfer said the province’s health workers had approached the roll-out with “efficiency and grace”.

According to the WCED, as of Tuesday June 29, more than 11900 teaching staff have been vaccinated in the province.

Sans Souci Girls High School principal Ruschda O’Shea receives her vaccination jab from Jeanne Spamers.