There has been a steady rise in the number of people coming to the Hillbrow Community Centre in Johannesburg to get their Covid-19 vaccinations. In phase two of the rollout, which started on 17 May 2021, people aged 60 or older and healthcare workers who weren’t part of the first phase are eligible for inoculation with the Pfizer-BioNTech dual-shot.
Health officials at the community centre would not give official statistics but New Frame understands that the number of people who received their jabs increased from around 40 on the first day to more than 100 a day towards the end of the week.
Some of those who were inoculated share what it means for them.
A family reunion
“I am absolutely thrilled that I could have this vaccine because I have children and grandchildren living in America,” says Fiona, 68. (Fiona declined to share her surname.) “I haven’t seen them for nearly two years and this is going to be the start of me being able to go and visit them and be able to live with my loved ones.
“I am so grateful to be here. We were very determined to try and get our vaccination and were advised to come here to the Hillbrow Community Centre. We were very, very lucky that they let us in and they were able to [register] for us because we are over 60 years old. We didn’t receive a message to come here. Somebody advised us to come here, so we are very lucky.
“It has been very outstanding. I can’t complain about one thing. It has been very methodical and very well done, and I am just thrilled that I have been part of it. If you have the opportunity to come here, do so. It has been a very pleasant experience.”
Broken booking system
“I just want to not have Covid, to prevent it, because I am 69,” says Albertina Mokoena. “So, I decided to come and get the vaccine. People are interested to come but they are waiting for the SMS and I think there is a problem. I registered four weeks ago but when I got here, I didn’t appear in the system, so maybe [others] are also waiting and waiting. I don’t know when they will know. Those who I know, I will tell them that you must go and check yourself like I did. You see the problem is the system and communication. I wish they could just tell everybody to go to the clinic and stand in the queue and they [will] vaccinate you. [The] booking [system] doesn’t work well.
“In my neighborhood in Alexandra, I am staying in a little place where it is like an old people’s place only. I will go and call a meeting this evening [21 May] and tell them please go to your nearest clinic, they must check you in the system otherwise they will wait and wait … We also hear a lot of different stories like if you vaccinate, after five years you’re going to die. Maybe people are also scared.”
“I am a professional artist/painter,” says Victor Fernandez. “It is a problem that I can’t move around. I am also an advertising and creative director. It is difficult. You can’t get out because of the possibility of being infected. Well, that is the way. What could we do?
“My wife was vaccinated yesterday [20 May] because she is a bit older than me. I am 76 years old but [I feel] young. We registered, got the confirmation and came here. I came with the transport of my daughter. She is a medical doctor. She is a senior psychiatrist. She told me not to bring my car but there is nothing wrong. There is parking. Hillbrow hospital is nothing like before. Now it is very okay.”
Trusting the government
“My sister-in-law, who is a health worker, said I must come and get vaccinated,” says Sipho Ndlovu. “I agreed because there is no government that will give me medicine that will kill me. When I was growing up, I was given the ant [shot] from the government. It was for chicken pox. I am 62, so this is why I came here and I am happy.
“Many people in my community have registered with the community clinic but they have not been called. Some people who are supposed to get the vaccine would have come but they are at work. My friend would be here but he is at work because he is working part time. He is on pension. If he was not working today, I would come with him because we were registered together.”
Can’t wait for her turn
“I came here to bring one of our sisters for vaccination,” says Connie Khuele, who is in her late 50s. “She got a message this morning and so I brought her here. So far, it looks very organised. From the gate, they told us where to come and park and the queue was not too long and the staff was very kind.
“I can’t wait [for] when my turn will come, so I feel healthy and not infect other people. My colleague is the first to be vaccinated in my house but some of the sisters in other houses were called as well. At least the rollout is happening, it is great to know … We hear a lot of stories but it is happening, thank God.”