“We thought we were safe from COVID-19,” says Ted Moodley (79), who lives at Allison Homes, an old age facility in Msunduzi, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (SA). “Yet we were not. The TV and radio reports were saying it was older people who were dying. It was very unsettling.”
Sister Nikki Price provides health services at Allison Homes. “When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, we did not insist that our residents vaccinate, but many of them wanted to. They wanted to see their families again. The isolation had been extremely hard for them. Sadly, two of our residents who had comorbidities died from COVID-19.”
Moodley explains that when the USAID vaccination team arrived at Allison Homes for the first time, he had mixed feelings and was hesitant about getting the vaccine. But after his niece became very ill with COVID-19, he realized he had to. “I took a hard look at the situation and decided to get the jab. It helps to strengthen the immune system and build resistance against COVID-19, not just for me but for everyone living here. Sixty of us are now fully vaccinated. We enjoy it when the vaccination team comes here.”
The USAID-funded Accelerating Development Against Pandemic Threats (ADAPT) program supports vaccine outreach in SA. ADAPT vaccination teams focus on hard-to-reach areas and vulnerable populations, such as the elderly who are at a higher risk for severe disease, hospitalization and death if they contract COVID-19.
Sister Price adds, “The USAID vaccinators have been incredible. They follow up when residents are ready for their COVID-19 booster shots and explain why boosters are important. They use every visit as an opportunity to encourage residents who have not vaccinated to do so. This vaccine program is keeping us safe. The residents have also learned how easily infections spread. They cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing - they did not used to do that before.”
Allison Homes is just one of the sites in Msunduzi where the ADAPT vaccination teams are vaccinating the elderly. They also go to pension pay-out points, popular stores and into homes to vaccinate the elderly that battle with mobility.
Some 53,000 people over the age of sixty live in Msunduzi, and through the SA government’s vaccine initiative supported by the ADAPT program, 84 percent have been fully vaccinated. KwaZulu-Natal is one of six provinces where ADAPT is being implemented in SA.
Vaccination remains the cornerstone for controlling and preventing the spread of COVID-19 and building health system resilience in SA.