If Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out to health workers later this month, traditional leaders want to be part of this first phase of inoculation.

After the AstraZeneca vaccine was halted, government is now planning to move ahead with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for health workers. As the state recalibrates its national rollout, traditional leaders are lobbying to be included.

Traditional leaders are also on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Sylvester Hlathi, president of the SADC Unified Ancestors Practitioners Association. They see patients each day, putting them at risk of contracting the virus, says Hlathi. They believe they deserve the protection afforded to other health workers.

The association has written to the national department of health asking that officials include traditional healers in the first phase of vaccination.

“As traditional health practitioners we are saying to our government and the department of health that we should be included among the very first people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as we treat many patients on a single day and that puts are more at risk of being infected with Covid-19,” said Hlathi.

So far, their application has fallen on deaf ears, with no response from the ministry. Health-e News has also asked the department for comment and is awaiting a response.

An essential service

Similar to the formal health care fraternity, traditional healers have also succumbed to the virus. The association says it has lost many healers since the start of the pandemic nearly a year ago.

“Since the pandemic started in the country, we have already lost so many traditional health practitioners to this virus,” said Hlathi. “We believe that we should be among the first to receive the vaccine, so that we can continue with our work of helping people without the fear of getting infected with this virus.

The only way to stave off these deaths is to receive the vaccine, added Hlathi. Traditional healers also play an essential role in society by treating thousands of patients of various other diseases daily.

“We made it clear to the health ministry that we are willing to take the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible to protect ourselves and patients,” said Hlathi.

The president of the traditional healers association also called on his colleagues across Africa to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

“As we continue to fight this pandemic, I urge all the traditional health practitioners to always ensure that they practice all the preventative measures which we are reminded of almost on a daily basis in order to protected themselves and patients,” he said.—Health-e News

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