A 67-year-old pensioner who was hesitant to get vaccinated has been left widowed weeks after she and her 81-year-old husband took the jab.

The pensioner from a small village called Elandskraal in Limpopo Province, says initially both she and her husband were hesitant about receiving vaccination but decided to register anyway after a home-based care worker visited their home.

The widow who requested anonymity went to receive vaccination at Matlala hospital in early August hoping to be protected from the deadly coronavirus.

“My husband and I were hospitalized shortly after receiving the first jab of the Pfizer vaccine at Matlala Hospital. Our son rushed us to a family doctor then the doctor said we need immediate hospitalization. When we arrived at the hospital, they took tests and told us that we have Covid-19. I didn’t receive any clarity as to what was happening” she said.

The 67-year-old pensioner says both she and her husband were taken to Matlala hospital. But her husband was later transferred to Philadelphia Hospital due to a shortage of beds. 

She says she was hospitalized for 11 days. “I have been confined to this bed ever since I received vaccination. During our communication with Philadelphia hospital they kept telling us that my husband is in a critical condition. Some days they would tell us that his condition is better while other days they would say that it is worsening,” says the 67-year-old pensioner.

She added that even though there was social distancing at the hospital, there is no telling when or how they contracted the virus. She criticized the vaccination process saying that the government should at least conduct Covid-19 tests before vaccination because some individuals, like herself, are asymptotic. 

Her 31-year-old son who also wanted his identity concealed for fear of victimisation said his father eventually lost his battle with Covid-19.

“On the 25th of August we received news that my father had left us. I am deeply saddened by his death. I had hope that his condition would become better and he would return home,” he said. 

“I feel it is dismissive of scientists to say that people who have passed on are the elderly with comorbidities. They were old and alive with those comorbidities. My father was diabetic and had high blood pleasure. My mother does not have comorbidities. There was no problem until they received vaccination. How do we trust a government that is not willing to provide us with clarity when it is most needed? We have the right to this information. We are all going to die eventually. You cannot speak so casually of people dying as if they don’t have a right to life” he adds. 

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) says it is conducting research on people who have died after receiving either Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson vaccines in South Africa.

According to SAHPRA,  by the seventh July, 28 people died after receiving vaccination.

Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on health, SAHPRA said there have been over 3700 complications reported besides the fatalities.

SAHPRA CEO, Dr Tumi Semete, says that a comprehension study is being undertaken to determine if there is any link between the vaccine and the resultant deaths.

“There are casualty studies that are currently ongoing. And what the causality studies to say we need to determine if the event that we saw indeed related to the vaccine or related to something else. So, these are very complex studies that will be conducted. So, autopsies will be done. The history of the individual as to what medication they were taking. It is quite an extensive process that is being undertaken but while the process is being done, we do note these fatalities.”

SAHPRA board chairperson, Professor Helen Rees says that it must be borne in mind that the data came from some first recipients of the vaccines. These, she says, are mostly the elderly who have comorbidities.

A survey called “A Shot in The Arm for South Africa- Increased Awareness to Accepting Covid-19” conducted by National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM) indicates that South Africa is a vaccine positive nation. It showed that many South Africans are willing to be vaccinated but the numbers also point in the opposite direction. The survey shows that among the 34% of individuals who did not strongly agree that they would get a vaccine, 53% believed that COVID vaccines are unsafe or could harm them.

A third of the individuals who thought vaccines are unsafe said they believed this because vaccine testing was rushed.

This is the case with a 35-year-old general worker from a small village in Limpopo province called Elandskraal. “I am not against vaccination as I have been vaccinated before. It is the Covid-19 vaccine that I have a problem with because of the lack of transparency from the government. I believe that the vaccines were rushed.” says the 35-year- old. She added that she will register for vaccination even though she is not convinced, just in case she changes her mind.

 A 25-year-old Apprentice from Mokopane in Limpopo province, Ashley Lesufi, says some of his friends have been discouraging their grandparents from receiving vaccination because they have heard that it is the main cause of deaths amongst elderly people. “Recently, a relative passed on due to Covid-19 related complications. I was told she became sick after receiving vaccination, and upon testing it was found that she had Covid-19. I do not know if she had any underlying illnesses” says Lesufi.

Lesufi says he feels that even though there is information available it has not been as widely shared as the one about vaccination. He feels this comes across as inconsiderate on the part of government. 

“It should at least be mandatory to test for Covid-19 before receiving vaccination. I think the government is hell-bent on portraying the vaccine in a good way even at the expense of people’s lives. There have been stories of elderly people dying after taking the vaccine, I suspect that they might have had Covid-19 prior to being vaccinated” he adds.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 vaccines states that an individual who has recovered from a covid-19 infection should wait at least four weeks before being vaccinated.  This is also the case if you contract SARS-Cov-2 between the first and second jab, even if it means that you wait longer than the recommended days before receiving your second jab. However, this information was told to the public after the vaccination rollout began.  Efforts to contact the department of Health has been unsuccessful. 

This article is produced with supported by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against Covid-19 (MMFC). 

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