Durban – Medical specialist Nerika Maharaj received the province’s first vaccine at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital where she, along with medical specialists Leosha Baldeo, Michelle Rajkaran and Thevaloshni Naidoo, head the hospital’s Covid unit.
The four of them told the SUNDAY TRIBUNE that they had been overcome with emotions after being vaccinated, calling the past the scariest and most difficult months of their career in more than a decade.
Maharaj said it was a privilege to be vaccinated as the same could not be said of his deceased colleagues.
“It is heartbreaking to watch colleagues succumb to a virus that is expected of us. Fortunately, the four of us have never tested positive. We put our faith in the vaccine and everyone should. Hope this is the beginning of the end. “
The feeling of helplessness and wanting but not being able to do more was a struggle Naidoo still struggled with.
“It is heartbreaking to see colleagues and patients suffer or die from Covid. You torment your mind to find solutions and pray for answers to help them, but unfortunately we are not able to do much and these limits are difficult to accept.
But Rajkaran said that even though they were supposed to fight the pandemic, normal life had to go on.
“Yes, we are frontline health workers, but we are also wives, mothers and somebody’s children. We still needed to home school our children, buy groceries and deliver them to our elderly parents and be pillars of strength.
“At one point, we wore full-time masks at home to keep our loved ones protected. You get so paranoid that every little sniffle or every little headache makes you wonder if this is the time you brought Covid home to your family.
Baldeo had disinfectant baths outside his house and kept boxes for his work clothes in his car to prevent his family from becoming one of his patients.
“We have to do everything right because life depended on it. We wear face masks, face shields, rubber boots, gloves and coveralls in the unit. We are covered from head to toe, but we still cannot take this for granted and that is why we are taking steps to ensure that we do not create casualties.
The four were thrilled to receive the vaccine, but said there was a feeling of guilt as colleagues from other hospitals eagerly awaited their turn. They encouraged vaccination before returning to the hospital to fight for their patients.
The province vaccinated its first group of frontline health workers on Thursday almost a year after KwaZulu-Natal confirmed the country’s first case of Covid-19.
Eighteen hundred doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine have been allocated to the province out of a total of 8,000 doses nationwide that arrived late Tuesday evening.
Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, located in KZN’s largest commune, Umlazi, received 5,040 doses of the vaccine and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital received the rest.
KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said that hospitals that have experienced the highest number of infections have been prioritized with upcoming vaccinations likely to take place at uMgungundlovu and Ilembe facilities.
KZN Prime Minister Sihle Zikalala said that to date 15,400 provincial health workers have contracted Covid-19, resulting in 323 deaths.
“We aim to immunize our 67,644 public sector health workers; 9,292 doctors, dentists, pharmacists and emergency medical services; 390 trainees; 34,279 nurses; 20,417 non-professional dispensing agents; 2,639 paramedical professionals; 366 engineers / craftsmen; 256 employees providing social services; 1,465 private contract agents working in the public sector; 5,939 traditional healers; 350 military health personnel; 6,699 NGO sector employees and 360 environmental health practitioners. “
The vaccinations are part of the Sisonke program which was a collaboration between the National Department of Health, SA Medical Research Council, Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, CAPRISA, Janssen and Johnson & Johnson. Vaccine deliveries are expected every two weeks.
Elizabeth Spooner, acting deputy director of SAMRC’s HIV prevention unit, said the vaccines were being stored in their research pharmacy.
“It is stored in armed custody under police surveillance and transported daily to the vaccination centers required by a police escort. We guarantee the quality of the vaccine. “
Last month, Johnson & Johnson shared their findings on vaccine reactions in trials in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and South Africa which included 44,000 volunteers.
He found that most of the side effects were fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and pain at the injection site. Seniors reported lower levels of complaints.
The side effects were mostly felt on the day of vaccination or the next day.
Only 9% of those who received the vaccine in the Johnson & Johnson trials reported a fever, only 0.2% suffered from it above 39.0 ° C and below 40.0 ° C.
No one who received the vaccine has had a serious allergic reaction.