The first shipment of one million doses of the  Oxford University AstraZeneca vaccines is en route to South Africa after being loaded onto a transport plane in India.

The shipment left the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai and is set to arrive in South Africa on 1 February 2021.

As South Africa expectantly awaits the arrival of the first batch, trade unions representing the majority of healthcare workers in the country have expressed mixed feelings regarding the roll-out plan.

Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU), which represents and advocates for the rights of healthcare workers, said it will be monitoring the rollout closely.

“The concern is that the expected vaccine is not enough as they have only managed to procure about a million doses and each person gets two doses,“ said YNITU President Lerato Mthunzi.

A group of diplomats from India and South Africa holding a banner dipicting South African and Indian relationship

Indian and South African diplomats gather at Mumbai Airport as vaccine departs. Image: GCIS

“It is really nothing to be excited about…when the information you have is derived from the news and the internet and it is not directly from your employer,” she said.

She believes there needs to be more training to facilitate the administration of the important shots.

“It is standard protocol that when we have a new pathology or a new condition that nurses undergo vigorous in-service training, but we did not see this with Covid-19. And again, if we are bringing any new drug nurses must undertake serious training but with this pandemic we are not seeing that,” said Mthunzi.

A line graph showing a dip in covid-19 infections

Covid-19 cases showing a slowdown in Gauteng

Training during a pandemic

At the same time, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) welcomed the announcement that the Covid-19 vaccine is arriving in the country. But Nehawu has urged government to work hard on securing more of the vital medicines.

“The 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute will only vaccinate 750,000 healthcare workers if there are no breakages as it is a double jab vaccine. In this regard, we call on government to continue to work hard in securing for more vaccines,” Nehawu said in a recent media statement.

At least twelve Nehawu members working at Edendale hospital in Pietermaritzburg died from Covid-19 complications in a single week in January.

The union has called on the government to move with speed with the inoculation in order to avert the loss of more healthcare workers.

Covid-19 cases in South Africa

Total Covid-19 cases as of January 29 2021

“We hope the announcement of the arrival of the first doses of the vaccines will not breed complacency. We should continue to exercise and follow best practices and ways to avoid getting infected by the coronavirus including staying at home, observing social distance, wearing masks that covers both the mouth and nose and washing hands with soap for 20 seconds or using alcohol based sanitisers,” added the union.–Health-e News