Volunteers play an active role in safeguarding our elderly from COVID-19

We need to do our part to help the vulnerable fight the pandemic

Jivashni Padayachee, UNICEF University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg (UNICEF UKZN-PMB)
volunteer-assisting-elderly
UNICEF South Africa/2022/UKZN PMB volunteers
24 June 2022

It has been two-and-a-half years since the first case of Covid-19 was reported, yet we are still trying to fight this pandemic and save as many lives as we can. We have become accustomed to sanitizing our hands, but it is no longer compulsory for us to wear our masks in South Africa, which puts many of our most vulnerable more at risk of contracting the virus.

The Covid-19 vaccines were developed to build our immune system so that we have a better chance of fighting the virus without suffering from too many of the complications that the virus brings. Vaccinations do not completely prevent one from contracting Covid-19, but it helps produce immunity against the virus so that one can fight the virus much easier without suffering from harsher symptoms. It is imperative that we take the vaccine and continue to take this pandemic seriously by helping to reduce infection rates.

Unfortunately, many of our citizens have still not been vaccinated, for various reasons.

volunteers
UNICEF South Africa/2022/UKZN PMB volunteers
UNICEF volunteer team from the University KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus with a nurse.

To help address this, the UNICEF Volunteer Team from UKZN-PMB held a Vaccine Drive Week as part of the #Grandkids4Gogos initiative from the 6th to the 10th of June 2022 where we set up vaccination sites at St Alpheges Church and Hayfields Mall in Pietermaritzburg. A nurse from Dis-Chem joined our team of UNICEF volunteers as we assisted the elderly with the official Department of Health Covid-19 registration process and the nurse administered the Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine and booster shots on site.

volunteers-assisting-elderly
UNICEF South Africa/2022/UKZN PMB volunteers
UNICEF volunteers assisting the elderly with Covid-19 vaccination registration process.

I was surprised to witness that a number of senior citizens have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19. Among the reasons is that some have not been fully informed on the benefits of the vaccine or even how it works. Many also do not have the means to travel to vaccination sites. We thus focused on bringing the vaccination sites closer, educating the vulnerable on the risks of not being vaccinated and why it is critical to protect themselves and all those around them by vaccinating. It was concerning that some of the elderly did not know that the Covid-19 vaccinations were free of charge.

My grandmother, Lily Pather (77 years old), believes that the vaccine saved her life when she tested positive for Covid-19 in 2021, and did not suffer harsh symptoms which those that did not take the vaccine had suffered.

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UNICEF South Africa/2022/UKZN PMB volunteers
An elderly man receives his COVID-19 vaccination during the Vaccine Drive Week in Pietermaritzburg, where UNICEF volunteers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal provided support.

We also found that many elderly people have difficulty registering online for the vaccine and downloading their vaccination certificate due to the complications of modern technology. I am glad that our UNICEF UKZN-PMB team has managed to reach many of our senior citizens to help them understand the Covid-19 vaccination process.

Nonetheless, many of our senior citizens have still not been vaccinated, and it is crucial that we continue to play an active and vital role in making sure that our most vulnerable are vaccinated against Covid-19 so that we can tackle this pandemic together and keep us all society safe.