Take vaccination to the people, says opposition

The Western Cape ANC has accused the DA-led provincial government of not doing enough to take Covid-19 vaccinations to the people of Mitchell’s Plain – one of many poor working-class communities in the city.

People queuing for vaccination at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital.

They are calling for a “community-based approach to vaccination roll-out” in answer to Premier Alan Winde’s statement that not many residents have been vaccinated in areas such as Mitchell’s Plain.

In response, the provincial government said there are four provincial sites in Mitchell’s Plain and they are working with a range of partners in the public and private sector to implement creative ways to encourage vaccine uptake and improve accessibility.

Speaking at a press conference at the ANC constituency office in Westridge on Wednesday September 1, Rachel Windvogel, an ANC member of the provincial legislature and the party’s provincial spokesperson on health, said the DA’s vaccination roll-out was “elitist”.

“These include the mainly elitist approach to the vaccine drive in the Western Cape. This elitist approach has resulted in a lack of vaccination sites in Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding communities and hardly any grassroots campaign to mobilise people to get vaccinated while addressing vaccine hesitancy and dispelling misinformation,” she said.

The day before ANC members visited vaccination sites in Mitchell’s Plain and compared information Mr Winde gave when answering questions in the provincial legislature on Thursday August 26.

Ms Windvogel said they had spoken to various people arriving by public transport and on foot at the Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital in Lentegeur and those who did not know about vaccination sites closer to their homes.

She said according to the provincial government’s official data, Mitchell’s Plain has a population of over 600 000people over the age of 18.

“There are only six vaccine sites in Mitchell’s Plain: three are public and the other three are private. This compared to 20 vaccine sites in the CBD according to the provincial government’s dashboard,” she said.

“The average number of jabs per week in Mitchell’s Plain, according to a presentation done last week by the provincial health department to the provincial legislature’s Covid-19 ad hoc committee, is 548 from all six sites in the first three weeks of August,” said Ms Windvogel.

They argue the vaccination sites are concentrated on the outskirts of Mitchell’s Plain and asked why there were no vaccination sites in Tafelsig, Weltevreden Valley, Woodlands, Westridge, Portland, Strandfontein, Colorado Park, Morgenster and Rocklands.

Cameron Dugmore, leader of the ANC in the provincial legislature, said they would like vaccination sites to be at schools and closer to residents.

He said more needed to be done and that instead of people travelling to vaccination sites it should be within walking distance for them.

Cayla Ann Tomás Murray, spokesperson for Mr Winde, said there are four provincial sites in Mitchell’s Plain, bordered by the R300, Swartklip Road, Baden Powell Drive and Old Strandfontein Road.

These sites include Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital Main Hall; Beaconvale Community Care Centre for the Frail and Aged in Beacon Valley, Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre; and Tafelsig Thusong Centre.

Ms Tomás Murray said they were working with a range of partners in the public and private sector to implement creative ways to encourage vaccine uptake and improve accessibility, which include weekend vaccination sites, “Boots on the Ground drives”, where mobile pop-up vaccination stations are set up; partnering with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to assist with registration and vaccinations at Boxer stores; bedridden patients are receiving their vaccinations at home; and on-site assistance to register is available.

“We have sufficient vaccines and vaccination sites, with the capacity to administer up to 50 000 vaccines a day or 200 000 vaccines a week and which are accessible to the public,” she said.

She said that international relief organisation Gift of the Givers were assisting with the transportation of residents who require transport assistance to vaccine sites.

The provincial Department of Health has worked with the provincial Department of Transport and Public Works since the first wave to implement the Red Dot taxi service, which transports staff to work and home, and patients to and from isolation and quarantine sites.

“Our local teams at present are working to identify communities who require transport to a vaccination site and assist them to schedule the lift at no cost to them,” said Ms Tomás Murray.

She said more private sites are now online, both in rural areas and the metro; there is a joint walk-in and drive-through vaccine site at Athlone Stadium; and health interns alongside community health workers and neighbourhood watch members partner for community door-to-door registration drives.

“Our teams are continuously engaging with communities to provide them with accurate information to counter misinformation and overcome hesitancy,” Ms Tomás Murray said.

Last month the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) hosted a Covid-19 awareness workshop at Mitchell’s Plain police station’s boardroom, in Eastridge, on Saturday August 28.

Participants echoed the ANC’s sentiments, saying more information and dialogue about the Covid-19 vaccine have to be promoted.

Mura deputy chairman Michael Jacobs facilitated a question-and-answer session where people could get relevant information on vaccinations and Covid-19.

Mr Jacobs, who had been hospitalised earlier this year with Covid-19 (“Mitchell’s Plain activist fights for medical treatment from his sick bed”, Plainsman, January 27), said he would encourage everyone to ensure they get the jab.

“Not only to keep themselves safe but keep others safe,” he said.

Participant Tanelle Welff-Dixon, founder of Ministries Foundation, said there seems to be a fear factor on vaccinations.

“I want to caution us as leaders, that we don’t violate the trust of the people who are looking at us as ambassadors and advocating for something we don’t know. Give us the opportunity to do proper advocacy with the right data,” she said.