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Nursing unions worried about vaccine rollout: ‘It is going to be a mess’

Nursing unions are concerned about the readiness of the rollout to vaccinate people from next week.

Nursing unions are concerned about the readiness of the rollout to vaccinate people from next week.

Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

  • Nursing unions are not convinced provincial health departments are ready for Monday’s vaccine rollout. 
  • People aged 60 and above are set to receive the Covid-19 vaccination from next week.
  • People will receive the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

Nursing unions have raised concerns about the readiness of provinces to rollout Covid-19 vaccinations next week.

On Monday, the country will start vaccinating people aged 60 and above, using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

Eleanor Roberts, Western Cape chair of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, said the long queues this week, as healthcare workers tried to get vaccinated, were worrying. 

Healthcare workers have been in long queues to get the jab before the end of the Sisonke Johnson & Johnson implementation study.

Roberts said: 

We cannot expect older people to stand in long queues. What we are seeing with the healthcare workers cannot happen with older people.

She said the union was still trying to gauge the readiness of provincial departments for Monday’s rollout, but “at this stage, it’s a bleak situation. We think they are not ready for it”.


The Young Nurses Indaba said they expect Monday’s vaccine rollout to be chaotic.

Spokesperson Rich Sicina said scenes at hospitals next week were likely to be even worse when the national rollout begins. 

Sicina said vaccines for healthcare workers should have been available at all facilities, instead of a few, because of the demand.

“What they are doing is wrong. Why are they not distributing these vaccines at different facilities, instead of people going to one facility? We have nurses who have not been able to work because they stand in long lines the whole day.”

He said many healthcare workers have still not received the vaccine, despite registering online. 

“Many of our members have still not received this vaccine. What will happen when you have nurses, who are not vaccinated now, having to vaccinate the public. It is going to be a mess. Monday, we are going to see a complete mess.”

The point was echoed by Roberts, who said: “What is going to happen with the healthcare workers that are not vaccinated?”

ALSO READ | Covid-19: Unused vaccines not up for grabs, says Western Cape health department

Sicina said the union had warned their members of long working hours, to accommodate people who want the vaccine. 

“A lot of people want to go vaccinate. They have seen so many people die, and they are scared.”

Deputy director-general for the national health department, Anban Pillay, said they were planning to go to old age homes on Monday, Fin24 reported.

“Many of them are frail. So, rather than asking them to come to our facilities, we’ve asked provincial colleagues to go to those facilities,” he said.

For the elderly not in care homes, the department was working with the South African Social Security Agency to register people at social grants pay points.

“They will register people and even make an attempt to set up vaccination sites, where feasible, in those areas, so that it can be convenient for pensioners,” Pillay was reported as saying. 

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