BY MARDENE VAN SCHALKWYK
Campus is abuzz with this week’s hot topic: the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations were opened to everyone 18 and older on Friday 20 August, 12 days earlier than initially expected. Stellenbosch University (SU) students wasted no time in getting themselves vaccinated, and on 25 August, Sandra Mulder (senior corporate writer for SU) reported that over 500 students were vaccinated at the Lentelus Sports Ground within the first three workdays of the age group being allowed to receive their vaccination.
Stella Joubert, a second-year BA (Visual Communication Design) student, is one of these students. She got her vaccination on 24 August at the Lentelus soccer clubhouse.
“I was very excited. I was sitting in the line and my heart was pumping. I couldn’t wait to get it done and have some peace of mind,” Joubert said.
SU operates the Lentelus soccer clubhouse vaccination site at its soccer complex on Hammanshand Road, which is open from 11:00 to 14:30 Monday to Friday. Currently, Lentelus offers primarily Pfizer vaccines and welcomes walk-ins, but students are required to bring their student card along. Students who want to get vaccinated here, have to bring a valid form of identification with them, whether an ID card, passport, or driver’s license, and should take their medical aid card too if applicable.
“I would recommend that other students get vaccinated at the Lentelus Sports Ground because we didn’t have to wait nearly as long as people usually do at Van Der Stel [Sports Club]. The lady who vaccinated me made me feel very at ease. They were all very efficient,” said Joubert.
SU Rector, Prof Wim de Villiers, urged students to get vaccinated in an email sent to the SU community on 24 August, writing, “I urge you, not just as Rector and Vice-Chancellor but also as a medical professional, to get vaccinated. I received the vaccine as soon as I could and experienced no side-effects.”
Although Prof de Villiers was fortunate enough to not experience any side-effects, it can be noted that they are common. However, the side-effects have been researched and proven to be safe.
Philakahle Sithole, a second-year BA (Visual Communication Design) student who got their Johnson & Johnson vaccine on 23 August from Mediclinic Stellenbosch, said, “The side-effects for day-one were headaches, difficulty sitting up because of stiffness, and extreme joint pain. I couldn’t function; my arm burned for two days. On the second day, those things started subsiding, but I started feeling COVID-19 symptoms. My throat was sore, and it felt like I had the flu.”
Sithole’s roommate, Raeeza Maharaj, a second-year BA (Sport Science) student, who also received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, experienced similar side-effects. Joubert, who was administered the Pfizer vaccine, complained of tiredness and mild bodily aches which she described as being “the same as after a hike”.
When it comes to choosing a vaccine, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are currently both available in the Stellenbosch area. Sithole said that they preferred the Johnson & Johnson because it is only one dose, and they are afraid of needles, whereas Ché Harris, who is also a second-year BA (Visual Communication Design) student, said “I prefer Pfizer because it has a higher success rate percentage.”
Danielle Birch, a second-year BCom (Industrial Psychology) student, said “I didn’t mind that Pfizer requires two doses. I justified picking Pfizer over Johnson & Johnson because Pfizer has been more thoroughly researched.”
According to an article by Yale Medicine that was updated on 23 August, the Pfizer vaccine does have a greater efficiency rate than Johnson & Johnson, but there is no concrete way to compare the two effectively.
In his email, Prof de Villiers had only one thing to say about this debate: “For those who are hesitant, I want to reassure you: The COVID-19 vaccine, whether you receive the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson dose, is completely safe.”
Prof de Villiers went on to say that he is proud of SU’s students and staff who have decided to be part of the solution. “Like I’ve said before: ‘No jab, no jol!’.”
Prof Stan du Plessis, chair of the Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC), emailed a press release involving the latest institutional news on COVID-19 to the SU community on 30 August. In this email, he mentioned that SU is investigating the possibility of making vaccinations mandatory.
“Along with many other institutions and organisations in South Africa and world-wide, we are investigating the possibility of mandatory vaccinations. To that end, a task team has been appointed to do a risk assessment of various factors involved for employees and students at SU,” said Du Plessis in the email.
The ICBC’s decision on the matter of mandatory vaccines will be informed by the results of this assessment.
Register now on the South African COVID-19 Vaccination Programme Registration website: https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za/#/
Look for an active vaccination site near you: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/active-vaccination-sites/