Violence leaves Limpopo slightly bruised as COVID-19 vaccine rollout takes a knock

COVID-19 vaccine. The NIDS-CRAM survey found more South Africans are willing to be vaccinated.
Written by Montsho Matlala

South Africa’s northernmost province hasn’t escaped this week’s looting and violence entirely unscathed with some private COVID-19 vaccination sites shutting down due to panic. But other than a few minor incidents, Limpopo has bounced back as the fight against the virus continues.

Limpopo Department of Health spokesperson, Derrick Kganyago, confirmed that COVID-19 vaccinations were negatively affected at some private institutions earlier this week.

“We are very concerned that the COVID-19 vaccination rollout at private pharmacies has been brought to a halt,” said Kganyago.

A female private practice lawyer, *Kgothatso Riba, 59, told Health-e News that she was about ten people away from getting her jab at a retail pharmacy in Polokwane when the doors were closed in front of her.

Riba said there was a sense of panic among residents who had seen photos and videos of the chaos caused by looters in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng.

“Most shops started closing just before lunchtime and our pharmacy followed. Although I left feeling sad, I will keep trying,” she said.

Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba visited some of these private sites in Polokwane a day after some had closed down on Monday and was happy to find it was business as usual.

Nursing students targeted

Ramathuba said her department had reached agreements with the University of Limpopo (UL) and the University of Venda (UNIVEN) for the provision of nursing students who can bolster the vaccination process once trained.

“We have identified these final year students to assist in the vaccination program as they are almost done with their studies. As we move to the category of 35 to 49 years, we will need more manpower to be equal to the task. We will be opening more vaccination sites,” she explained.

Some minor hiccups

Vaccinations aside, there have been no other health service delivery issues reported. However, payments of social grants at cash paypoints across the province remain suspended after cash-in-transit firms were forced to halt operations following the looting and destruction of properties in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“SASSA grant recipients will have to collect their payments at ATMs, post offices or merchant stores,” said Social Development MEC Nkakareng Rakgole.

The new arrangement caused minor havoc at Moutse Mall outside Groblersadal in the Sekhukhune district on Monday.

Seun Mogtji, a local councilor, painted a picture as panic spread across town.

“Pensioners were turned away at pay points and pharmacies closed early due to threats,” said the Elias Motsoaledi Municipality staff member.

Jolly jabbers share their experiences

As of today, most of the 37 vaccination sites in the province remain open.

Health-e News managed to speak to some people who had received their COVID-19 shots.

Thelma Tshabalala, 59, was vaccinated at the Seshego hospital yesterday.

“I got it, what a relief. I felt some pain, something I always feels after getting an injection on my buttocks. But now all is well. I called my elderly mother to brag. I told her: ‘I got it like you, we are now in this COVID-19 thing together’,” Tshabalala laughed.

Magari Mohajane got her jab at a private site in Polokwane.

“It’s lovely. I advise everyone out there to go,” said the 54-year-old.

“I am used to vaccines because every year I take my family for the flu jab,” said Mohajane.

She said her main concern about the COVID-19 vaccination process was living in a household in which only the elderly have been vaccinated, the others not.

“Where this is an eligible person – due to age or comorbidities, the whole family must be vaccinated to offer added protection to that person,” she explained. Health-e News

* Not her real name




About the author

Montsho Matlala