People across the country are pulling out all the stops to help register pensioners for the COVID-19 vaccine, and now pension payout points where thousands queue for their monthly grant, are being targeted.
Volunteers from all walks of life are now pullulating Post Offices, Boxer Superstores and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pay points to ensure no pensioner is left behind.
The mission is to get as many over 60s as possible, to sign up for the lifesaving jab, under the second phase of the country’s vaccination rollout programme, that is currently underway.
This week, the Department of Health’s Director-General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, expressed his disappointment that the country was not even close to reaching 50% of the 5.5 million people who are over 60.
However, one woman who is determined to change this is Jane Simmonds, who works as the Research Manager, at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
Speaking to SAnews, Simmonds said she realised that grant queues are very important in older people’s lives.
“Because, where do you reach old people? They’re not at work, not at old age homes, not on transport or school. They’re not even going to church much these days because of COVID-19. But they’re living at home and in their communities.”
And when she saw that the level of vaccine registration for the elderly was low, Simmonds knew she needed to do something.
She has since rallied the likes of Boxer, South African Post Office (SAPO), and SASSA, where thousands of senior citizens gather to collect their old age pension.
The South African Council of Churches and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund have also come on board and are sending volunteers to offer a helping hand by assisting pensioners with physical registration.
“We find that a lot of old people do have phones. However, they can’t see the screen because of their eyes, can read numbers to type on the phone or follow instructions.”
The group will help the elderly dial the USSD number (*134*832#), which is free – and fill in their personal details or use their own cellphones to register for the elderly people who do not have mobile phones.
According to Simmonds, this is just the beginning.
“The next step is getting the needles in people’s arms as it allows them to be safe from COVID-19,” she said, adding that the SAMRC is targeting to reach at least one million senior citizens.
Meanwhile, Boxer has started distributing 250 000 flyers that will be handed out in their stores to promote the vaccination rollout.
According to Simmonds, about 100 000 pensioners collected their money from Boxer in April this year, Simmonds said.
“Going to Boxer, you have an opportunity to reach 100 000 people.”
Boxer’s Head of Stakeholder relations, Ntombi Dludla, said they would like to see as many people being vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“We identified that the first step of registration was critical, yet challenging. We realised that many pensioners come to Boxer each month to collect their grants and we believed it was an ideal opportunity to talk to them about registering for the vaccine.”
Dludla said the locations of their stores make it ideal to gain access to many people from “difficult-to-reach” areas.
“The wording on our leaflets has been endorsed by the Department of Health and we are pleased to have their logo endorsing our message.”
Dludla also welcomed the news that the community health workers have now been allocated at selected stores as well, for the actual signing up.
“This is a tremendous boost to our initiative and we are grateful to the Department of Health, the Department of Social Development and the SAMRC for their incredible support of this initiative.” – SAnews.gov.za