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March 2021 1st edition

Saving lives one jab at a time

Written by Allison Cooper

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are relieved and excited to be among the first South Africans to receive the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) vaccine.Dr Sa’ad Lahri was one of the first healthcare workers in the country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Sa’ad Lahri (40) was one of the first healthcare workers in the country to receive the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.

He was vaccinated at Khayelitsha District Hospital on 17 February, the same day that President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize received their vaccines.

As head of the emergency department at the hospital and President of the College of Emergency Medicine of South Africa, Dr Lahri says he feels honoured and privileged to be among the first healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

“I am extremely humbled as well,” he adds.

Dr Lahri had a little bit of pain at the injection site on the day he was vaccinated and since then has had no other side effects.

Hope for the future

“It’s very important for healthcare workers to be vaccinated. We are on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. It’s important that we are safe and healthy so that we can continue to serve those who are ill.

“The vaccine gives South Africa hope. Hope for the nation to recover from this devastating illness and hope for the country to recover economically,” he says.

Dr Lahri stresses that South Africans should not be afraid of being vaccinated. “The vaccine is safe and effective.”

Working on the frontlines during the pandemic has been extremely tough for Dr Lahri.

“We have lost many patients. Many colleagues have either passed away or been admitted to hospital.

“I am continuously inspired by all in the healthcare chain, from the driver of the oxygen delivery truck, to our porters, clerks, cleaners, nurses, administrators and fellow doctors, who continue to strive and toil to the best of their ability.”

Sisonke Vaccination Programme

By 18 March, more than 170 000 healthcare workers had already been vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of the Sisonke Vaccination Programme.

The programme started on 17 February, the day after the first batch of J&J vaccines arrived in the country.

The J&J vaccine provides 57% protection against moderate-severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease and 100% protection against death.

As more vaccines continue to arrive in the country, government has increased the number of vaccination sites, adding more private hospitals.

Once phase one of the vaccination programme is complete, phase two will focus on essential workers, persons in congregate settings, people aged 60 and over, and people over the age of 18 who have comorbidities. Phase three will target those 18 and older.

The vaccine is free of charge at various points of service across the country.