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Limpopo’s elderly worried: They don’t know how to register for the COVID-19 vaccine

Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

As phase two of national vaccination programme starts today, some elderly citizens are concerned that they will be last in line for the COVID-19 vaccine as they do not know how to register using the online system.

Speaking to Health-e News from her home in Mphego village, outside Thohoyandou, 74-year-old Meriam Makhaya said that she is worried that she is not yet registered on Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) because she is unable to register herself as she does not know how to operate a smart-phone nor use the internet.

“I am happy that we will soon be getting a COVID-19 vaccine as it has been reported on the news, but I am worried about the registration process. No one is telling us where to go in order to register ourselves as elderly people,” said Makhaya.

But the Provincial Department of Health says it will dispatch a team of community healthcare workers to help all those who are unable to register themselves on the online registration system. This follows the announcement last month by health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, inviting all people above 60 years to register for COVID-19 vaccination.

Elderly persons who successfully register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System will receive an SMS with the date, time and place for their vaccination when it is their turn.

Elderly more at risk

Makhaya is particularly anxious to get the vaccine because she is more at risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19 as she is living with hypertension and diabetes. She said that she is worried that the delay in registering herself might mean that it will take many months before she can receive her jab.

“I am worried that if I do not register anytime soon, it will delay me in getting the vaccine which I dearly need as other people have already registered themselves. I hope that our government will come up with ways which will afford people like me an opportunity to register for the vaccine – maybe they will assign people to assist us at our local clinics,” she said.

“As old as I am, I cannot operate a smart phone and as a result I cannot register myself on my own and the grandchildren which I am currently staying with are still very young and they know nothing about the online registration or how it works,” she said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 is often more severe in people who are older than 60 years or who have health conditions like lung or heart disease, diabetes, or conditions that affect their immune systems.

Taking precautions while waiting for the vaccine

Knowing that she falls among the group, which is at risk of dying from the virus, Makhaya said that she makes sure that she stays at home and only leaves the house when it is absolutely necessary.

“I believe that the vaccine is essential in ending this agony we find ourselves in. As an elderly person with an already compromised immune system, I have been living in fear of this virus since last year. I am even afraid of leaving my house as I know that should I contract this virus it will be difficult for me to survive it,” said Makhaya.

“I only go out when it is necessary, for example when I go to collect my pension grant in Thohoyandou shopping complex and even when I do so I always ensures that I am well protected by wearing my face mask all the times and keeping my hands sanitised all the time.”

Another elderly person who is worried about the registration process is Sarah Mulaudzi, 63, from Mpheni village, outside Elim hospital who is also yet to register herself on EVDS.

“I am willing to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine as I have been told that it is the only way we can be protected from this pandemic, but I do not know were to go in order to register myself so that I can be considered for the vaccine, but I am hopeful that the government will find ways to ensure that all of us are registered as soon as possible,” said Mulaudzi.

Elderly unable to register themselves

Mulaudzi said that it is a challenging time for the elderly as most of them like herself are unable to register themselves, despite having cellphones.

“I do have a smart phone, but I cannot use the internet as I only use my phone to receive calls from my children whom I am not staying with. It is a challenging time as not being able to register on time might delay us in getting the vaccine. But my children have promised me that they will register on my behalf soon,” added Mulaudzi.

According to Tacia Mukwevho, who manages Denzhe-Lwamutsha Place of Care in Lwamondo outside Thohoyandou, which looks after 170 grannies, since the announcement by the minister, the centre has been fielding calls from elderly citizens who are confused about where to go to register themselves to be in line to receive the COVID-19 jab.

“Though we are yet to re-open since the start of the pandemic, since the announcement last month we have been receiving calls from some of our grannies asking if we can assist them with the registration process as they do not know where else to go. As we are still not allowed to gather, we will soon start going house to house to try and help those who we can access,” said Mukwevho.

Community health workers will be dispatched to help

According to the provincial spokesperson for the Department of Health in Limpopo, Neil Shikwambana a team of community health workers will be dispatched to assist all those who are struggling with the COVID-19 online vaccine registration process.

“Part of our strategy is to ensure that we reach out to all who are willing to register for COVID-19 vaccination. [We need to] appreciate the rurality of our province. Hence, we emphasise through our messages that firstly those with cellphones who live with the targeted group (elderly) must assist them by registering them. If you have access and are able, please register your mother, father, grandparents, uncles, aunts and others who are close to you,” said Shikwambana.

“But secondly we are dispatching a team of community health workers to go house to house and register those old people who are unable to register and have no-one to assist them. Those community health workers are the same ones who are doing outreach [activities] in those villages and townships for [the management of] other diseases such as HIV,” he said. –Health-e News

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.