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Solidarity statement with health workers at Groote Schuur Hospital

The following statement was issued by People’s Health Movement South Africa and Health Justice Initiative on 20 Aug 2021

A misplaced and disrespectful call to attend a “Freedom of Choice: No to Mandatory Vaccination Rally” at Groote Schuur this weekend is circulating on social media.

It is misplaced because South Africa does not have a mandatory vaccine policy.

It is disrespectful because health workers risk their lives to save ours, and the least we can do is to ensure they are not harassed and antagonized at work.

It is rooted in a previous anti-mask anti-vaxx march held in Cape Town recently, The poster has no organisers’ details and uses a picture from a march which called the vaccine the devil’s work.

Vaccines are safe, effective and free for everyone in South Africa. Getting vaccinated is a simple and voluntary step every adult can take to prevent hospitals from being overburdened by patients with severe COVID-19.

The WHO, SAHPRA, SAMA, HPOCSA, faith groups, community leaders, NGOs, and business groups all support the vaccine rollout.

Health workers have been at the forefront of treating patients with COVID-19 who come to hospitals fighting for their lives. They should be respected, protected and supported.

The nurses, doctors, porters, food workers, lab technicians, security guards, cleaners, and administrative workers at Groote Schuur and elsewhere work under tough conditions: long hours, exposure to COVID-19, making sure patients’ loved ones are updated about their conditions, seeing their colleagues get sick and sometimes pass away, and sadly, contacting families to let them know their loved ones have passed on.

Nevertheless, they show up every day to do their life-saving work.

Under current Government regulations it is not legal to spread misinformation about COVID-19. To imply that mandatory vaccination is policy in South Africa is inaccurate. We all have the right to freedom of speech, but that right is limited by the obligation to ensure we do not do harm to other members of our community.

Scaring people with untruths and false claims does harm to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. It destroys the morale of health workers who bear the brunt of the pain, exhaustion and despair they encounter when trying to prevent COVID-19 deaths.

We call on the national government not to allow mass marches and rallies outside health facilities if designed to intimidate, as this may undermine their functioning. This so-called gathering could protest outside the WC government Offices or somewhere else, but chooses a hospital at the front line that is not making government policy.

We call on the public to show solidarity with health workers and get vaccinated. This decreases their burden of work. In particular, we call on everyone to ensure the elders and persons with comorbidities in our communities get vaccinated, as they are most at risk of severe disease and dying from COVID-19.

We call on government to make public the advice it has received on mandatory vaccination from the MAC or any other advice on vaccination to increase transparency and decrease uncertainty around this issue.

Issued by:
People’s Health Movement South Africa and Health Justice Initiative
Spokesperson: Tinashe Njanji
Position & Organisation: Coordinator – People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA)
Contact number: 081 571 5809
20 August 2021

About Tinashe Njanji