Nzimande prioritises campus healthcare staff, health sciences students in phase 1 vaccine roll-out

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande
Image: GCIS

Health science students and frontline campus healthcare workers will be prioritised in phase 1 of  the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

This was announced by minister of higher education Blade Nzimande, who gave a keynote address during a Higher Health webinar held on Wednesday with different education stakeholders on how to manage the second wave of Covid-19  with the post-school sector (PSET).

Nzimande said he had instructed Higher Health, the agency of his department, to create a PSET strategy that is aligned with and supports the department of health’s phased national strategy and coordinate its subsequent roll-out.

“The strategy will help to ensure access to vaccination for our students and staff, of which priority for inclusion in the Phase 1 of the vaccine roll-out programme are our frontline campus healthcare staff and health sciences students, especially the nursing, medicine and other disciplines,”  Nzimande said.

He said in sync with the health department’s national vaccine approach, the PSET vaccination strategy will develop a phased road map towards vaccination of all  frontline and essential staff students and staff volunteers, student support structures as well as staff and students living with comorbidities across  all campuses.

Nzimande said Higher Health was also working closely with their sister departments for an approved training programme for the PSET sector for a science-based awareness and education initiative on the national Covid vaccination drive.

“We will train thousands of our peer educators and student volunteers, with support from student leadership and our staff, to render knowledge, education and information to support the massive countrywide vaccination drive,” Nzimande said.

 Dr Lesley Bamford,  chief director in the department of health, said it was important for people to vaccinate as this  would prevent morbidity and mortality and also achieve  immunity while preventing ongoing transmission.

“When a person gets vaccinated against a disease their risk of infection is also reduced. Vaccines will not be available to everyone immediately and a prioritisation  system will have to be applied which will be guided by the ministerial advisory committee on vaccines,” she said.

Bamford said health science students are likely to be included in phase 1 while educators both in higher and basic education will be included in phase 2 of  Covid-19 roll-out.

Clinical virologisit Professor Tim Tucker, who was also part of the panelist, said the vaccination had very few side effects and it was cost-effective. “Since the 1900, smallpox killed about 300-million people around the world but many were saved as a result of a vaccine. People should know vaccines are safe and they are a way to stop this pandemic,” he said.

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