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Gearing up for vaccine roll-out

Early signs of the West Coast District reaching its Covid-19 peak in the second wave is at hand. Over the past seven days there has been an 18% decline in new cases of Covid-19 and a drop in people hospitalised.

Western Cape Government Health and other role-players who band together to beat the pandemic in this area last week received Premier Alan Winde and the MEC for Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, in Moorreesburg and Vredendal.

“We believe it will soon join the other districts of our province in a decline [this] week,” said Winde. “I was impressed by the level of planning and how all role-players take this pandemic seriously, doing everything possible to ensure that we provide the care needed to every person who needs it as this district’s peak is approached.”

Covid-19 testing

Western Cape Government Health wishes to remind the public that its facilities do not provide Covid-19 testing for travelling purposes. If you live in the West Coast area, you will be tested for Covid-19, if: . you have Covid-19 symptoms (e.g. a loss of your sense of taste and smell, a sudden sore throat or fever). This includes healthcare workers and people living in communal spaces like old age homes, hostels or correctional facilities;. you are awaiting surgery;. you are a health-care worker who has been in quarantine and by day 7 still has no symptoms;. you have recovered from Covid-19, but 90 days later develop Covid-19 symptoms again.

Support loved ones who are in hospital

Staying in touch with family members and friends while they are ill is very important. If you have a loved one in hospital identify one person that will call the hospital ward for an update on the patient’s well-being. This person can share the update with others who are concerned about the patient. If your loved one has a cellphone make regular contact through sending messages and calling.

The department expressed its appreciation to local radio stations that give members of the community an opportunity to send good wishes to loved ones in hospital. “We appreciate every initiative to support patients and staff,” the department said in a statement, “this includes masking up, following guidelines such as keeping a safe distance from others and washing hands regularly. Safe choices such as these lead to a reduction in the number of people who get Covid-19 and pressures on the healthcare system.”

Increasing protection through vaccination

The department said it is embarking on the biggest vaccination programme of its kind as they prepare to receive 1 million doses of Covishield by the end of January and a further 500 000 in February.

“Vaccines are an important part of keeping us safe and stopping the spread of Covid-19,” the statement said. “Vaccines protects an individual, by reducing their risk of infection or the severity of their symptoms if they do become infected. When enough people have received the vaccine, they develop ‘herd or population immunity’, which results in a low risk of the virus continuing to spread within that community.”

To ensure the vaccine is safe and effective, Covishield was tested on 11 636 participants. Only half the group received the vaccine. Of those who received it only 30 developed Covid-19. Of the other half who did not receive the vaccine 101 people got Covid-19. It was noted that the 30 who were vaccinated and did become infected with Covid-19 were mildly ill and did not need hospitalisation and there were no deaths. Of the 101 who were not vaccinated, 10 had to be hospitalised after getting Covid-19 and one died.

In preparing for the roll-out of the vaccine the department is engaging with various role-players – the first being health-care workers and Labour Unions. Health-care workers are the first group who will have the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19. As part of the first engagements with staff, the department asked staff to participate in a rapid poll. Of the 1 680 staff members who participated, 918 indicated they would take the vaccine.

For Sr Hanneke Pienaar of the department’s Swartland Sub-district office vaccination is a step in the right direction. She has seen the impact of the pandemic in clinics. Pienaar has held colleagues and friends who lost loved ones due to Covid-19. She has wept with patients and held her breath when hearing another colleague tested positive. Now it is time for change.

“Vaccinations are the reason modern medicine has been able to contain so many diseases. It may still be a thin sliver of hope on the horizon, but it is hope. I am going to get immunised. I need it and my colleagues need it. For us to continue the battle we need all the protection that is available.”

During the second phase of the roll-out, essential workers and high-risk groups will have the opportunity to be vaccinated. This includes people in dense settings, people older than 60 years and those older than 18 years who have chronic conditions. In the third phase the broader population of persons older than 18 years can be vaccinated.

Stewarding the roll-out in the Western Cape will be a provincial C-19 Vaccine Coordinating Committee that will liaise with the different role-players and national body coordinating the roll-out.

A coordinating committee for the private sector is also being established. Together, these structures will be responsible for central governance of the vaccine programme.

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