Healthcare workers won’t be ‘guinea pigs’, says WC health dept on vaccine jab

A nurse exits the change room before entering the red zone at the Nasrec quarantine/isolation site in Nasrec, 3 July 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

‘They will only approve a vaccine that is safe, and has been used on humans.’

Health workers may be offered a Covid-19 vaccine first, but they will not be “guinea pigs” for the new initiative, the Western Cape health department said on Wednesday.

“We have good expertise and good regulatory bodies in this country,” said department head Dr Keith Cloete.

“They will only approve a vaccine that is safe, and has been used on humans.”

This in reply to a question in the legislature from the FF Plus’ Peter Marais who asked whether health workers, who would be first to be offered the vaccine, were going to be the “guinea pigs” to see if it was safe.

Cloete said a special vaccine advisory committee was working on the arrival of the vaccine, and they were planning optimistically for a 1 February start date, so that they were ready.

“We shouldn’t have vaccines and not be ready.”

At the same time, Premier Alan Winde said if it would help people trust the vaccine, he was prepared to go first.

“They make a joke about politicians, but we might have to be the one upfront taking the vaccine,” he added amid scepticism by some people and conspiracy theories.

“We need to lead. If it means I’ve got to be the first guy to take the jab, so be it,” he added.

Cloete said having the vaccine did not mean masks could be tossed aside.

He added until enough people have been vaccinated to curb the spread of the virus, they would still need to wear their masks, sanitise, and stick to social distancing.

Meanwhile, the department is still waiting for the finer details on how many doses will be delivered to each province as the logistics for distribution of vaccination are ironed out, which would include appointment dates and a vaccination register for around 100,000 healthcare workers.

And while the province is seeing early signs of the stabilisation of new Covid-19 cases, it is already looking at preparations for the third surge, expected in about March or April, based on the lessons learnt from the first and second waves with different variants of the virus.

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