A vaccination plan for teachers is still in the planning phase and “nothing is confirmed yet”, the national health department said amid a leaked KwaZulu-Natal provincial health memo that stated the basic education department would be the target group for the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine next week.
Pupils from grades R to 7, including those from schools for children with special needs, would be returning to class under the traditional timetable from 26 July.
South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said they have been calling for teachers to be vaccinated since April.
Maluleke said: “Teachers are frontline workers and must be on the priority list. We continue to advocate for their vaccination because education is critical [and is being] disrupted by the pandemic. This vaccination must happen now.”
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) executive director Basil Manuel said teachers and learners must be kept safe.
“As part of our demands, we have also said teachers should be vaccinated, but not only for health and safety protocols, but because it settles the minds of our teachers. They will set the example. It’s been confirmed that there is support for this by the education minister and health minister. And in the next week or two, a campaign will be rolled out to get teachers registered and vaccines will be available for teachers and education workers.”
In the letter ostensibly released by the KwaZulu-Natal health department to the provincial education head of department, teachers would be eligible for the J&J vaccine doses.
“The target group is basic education (all staff members of primary and secondary schools). It is expected that the dedicated vaccination sites for educators will be ready by Wednesday, and the vaccination period will be for two weeks.”
But the national department of health’s Popo Maja has neither confirmed nor denied that this is indeed the plan.
KwaZulu-Natal department of education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said they had received a directive to wait for an official announcement from the health and education ministers.
“A briefing is expected to take place either on Saturday or on Sunday to address the vaccine for teachers.”
The education department referred all queries to the health department.
Western Cape department of health spokesperson Mark Van Der Heever confirmed they received a request but were unsure where the request came from on Thursday about vaccines for teachers.
“Various requests were made through national. However, we have not received clear details on the plan from national.”