Hundreds of thousands of teachers to be vaccinated at dedicated sites within weeks
- Dedicated vaccination sites will be set up for South African teachers and other education staff – just as soon as the J&J doses they are due to receive are unblocked.
- A flight to transport those doses from the USA is already booked, but American regulators have not yet given the go-ahead.
- Half a million educators and support personnel are targeted, with the hope of inoculating all of them over a three-week period, maybe two weeks at a push.
- Schools are due to return to full operation at the end of July, which means injections would have to be completed early in that month.
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South Africa's teachers and support staff will be transported to dedicated vaccination sites to receive the J&J Covid-19 shot, under a plan agreed between the departments of health and basic education.
Their details will be checked against three databases, one each for those on the government payroll, those from independent schools, and those appointed by school governing bodies, which stand ready.
A flight has also been booked to transport doses from the USA – but the vaccine has not yet been released, and there is little anyone in South Africa can do about that.
It is, said Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director general in the department of health who detailed the plan to Business Insider South Africa, "rather frustrating".
See also | No more walk-in vaccines at private sites if you don’t have medical aid – and maybe if you’re 80
The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) had been due on Friday to give its verdict on cross-contamination at a plant in Baltimore, which affects vaccines due for and already in South Africa. As of Monday, South African regulators were still waiting.
In the meanwhile, detailed plans have been made for the rapid inoculation of educators.
In total some 500,000 people will be targeted, said Crisp, not just teachers but "the whole basic education sector". Some may refuse to be vaccinated, others may be over the age of 60 and have already received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The hope is to give everyone else the single-shot J&J vaccine by early July, so that they will develop full immunity by the end of that month, when schools are now due to resume normal operation.
The plan had been to complete the injections in three weeks, said Crisp, which would be manageable. Now it may have to be two weeks, but that would depend on when, exactly, the vaccine doses become available.
Those receiving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine must wait 42 days for a second shot, and then weeks more for full immunity to be achieved. That long delay is one reason sports stars, due to travel to the Olympic games and other contests, received some of the last J&J doses that had been available in SA.
See also | SA’s last thousand doses of J&J Sisonke vaccine will go to rugby and Olympic stars this week
The department of education referred all questions to the department of health, but Crisp said the education department had on the weekend indicated that it stood ready to activate the plan, as does the department of health.
The "dedicated education sector intervention" would make teachers the second special group to receive vaccines, after healthcare workers. Those with co-morbidities putting them a greater risk of severe Covid-19 will no longer receive preference – unless they work for the right company.
J&J recipients are considered immune two weeks after the shot, though there is evidence of greater protection 28 days after the injection.
Primary schools are due to return to normal schedules on 26 July.
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