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Free rides to vaccination sites are expected to boost access

Written by Marcia Zali

The Roads and Transport Department in Gauteng is planning to get taxi associations involved in efforts to boost the numbers of people who want to get to vaccination sites but cannot afford transport costs.

MEC for the department, Jacob Mamabolo spoke to Health-e during the province’s vaccination drive at the Rabasotho Hall in Thembisa. The drive is one of the efforts by the province to encourage all persons that are eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated at their nearest sites.

“I’m going to ask the taxi industry to say, please make a contribution to saving human lives because they need the commuters tomorrow. These are their commuters, can’t they protect the commuter by offering free trips even if it’s once in a while, to take people to the vaccination points. Once it [the taxi industry] gets involved, the momentum will be very high,” said Mamabolo.

But the National Taxi Alliance’s (NTA) spokesperson Theo Malele believes that what Mamabolo is asking from the taxi industry is a “tall order” and it would not make sense for an already financially struggling industry to offer free services.

“It’s a tall order in that currently, our bottom lines are so squeezed, the taxi industry is basically bleeding financially and we are not getting any support. It is going to be difficult for me to tell taxi operators to provide free transport when even the Covid-19 relief funds have not been received,” explained Malele.

Mamabolo who also received his jab of the single-dose Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine also encouraged people aged 50 years and above to get vaccinated.

“I feel very good that I’ve taken the vaccine. I believe that it’s a very good thing to do and I will urge everybody to take the vaccine so that we can be able to protect people against the severe impact of Covid-19,” said Mamabolo.

By 10 a.m. only 50 people had been vaccinated with either the Pfizer or J&J vaccine.

The site has a daily target of 350 people and more people are expected to show up after the 15th of July which is the date that was initially expected to be the start date for the vaccination of people between the ages of 50 and 59 years.

This is despite the introduction of busses that were meant to collect people from various locations and take them to vaccination sites.

Health-e went to a pick-up point at Engine Garage in Hospital View on Tuesday and the Shell Garage pick-up point at Moriting section on Wednesday.

At both pick-up points, the busses were a no-show and there were no people waiting to be transported to the Rabasotho vaccination site.

According to Mamabolo, poor communication about the drive or that the Rabasotho site was now open to all eligible Thembisa residents, might have contributed to the low turnout at the site and the no-show at the pick-up points.

“It’s important that we improve communication to encourage people to come out and register and also to turn out when they have registered. We will go on a mass communication drive to make sure that we reach out to everybody,” added Mamabolo.

Thembisa resident Magaota Molotja (55) received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Rabasotho hall.

“I had a bit of information about the vaccine, but I was getting confused by all the negative talk such as that we would die from the vaccine so when I came today, I just told myself that my health was more important,” said Molotja.

Molotja said that getting vaccinated would not just protect her from Covid-19 but her loved ones too.

“I am not just protecting myself, I am also protecting those around me. You won’t know that you have it [Covid-19] if you haven’t been tested but when you have been vaccinated, it [the vaccine] will protect you.”

She also added that as a young girl, vaccination drives were a common thing, and that people should have the same approach towards the Covid-19 vaccines, as a normal vaccine that will save their lives.

About the author

Marcia Zali