The pandemic has shaken up our lives and careers. For many health sciences and medical students, it meant joining the frontline to fight the virus as volunteers. Now, students working in health facilities take on a new challenge: getting their vaccine shot and fighting misinformation.
Glen Thatcher, a fourth-year medical student, jumped at the opportunity to volunteer during the pandemic despite his fears.
“When something like an international pandemic comes, you feel, can I say, ‘called to arms’. You feel that you are called to help. You joined this field and it’s been your dream for your whole life to work and serve people as much as you can. On the one hand there was a concern, we are not doctors, nurses or paramedics yet. There is a feeling that you are not fully competent or capable of helping, but on the other hand you know the basics, you know something, and you understand how the viruses work. We did general examinations and helped like doing blood tests or stitches. We did anything we could to reduce the load on hospitals.”
The student has worked at facilities like Bishop Lavis Community Health Centre and is now based at Tygerberg Hospital. He has decided to take the vaccine and urged others to keep an open mind. “I think that vaccines have had a huge positive effect on the world, and it’s changed the tide on medicine on the 20th and 21st century. There are diseases that would have been fatal without vaccines, but are now a mild tickle or flu, that in itself is a miracle. I think it’s saved so much money in terms of treatment costs and hospital costs. More importantly, vaccines have saved so many lives. Babies are being born without certain diseases and there’s even been a decrease in certain forms of cancers which is incredible.”
He believes that taking the vaccine will help him to protect his parents and patients he is responsible for. “I am excited to take it and I am excited to learn more about it. I feel like it’s going to be the best option for us to have this vaccine on board. If you go into a blizzard or snow, you buy a jacket. If you’re going to go and run a marathon, you’re going to get some tekkies, whatever you do, you prepare as best you can. I think that taking the vaccine is giving us that extra edge against the virus.”
Third-year nursing student Nokubona Ngeyi, who works in the Cape Metro, also hopes to take the vaccine. The COVID-19 survivor shares her fears of being re-infected and why she’ll get vaccinated. “I was scared of going back to work during the pandemic. When I returned, I took it one day at a time and I’m relieved that I haven’t been re-infected again. I will take the vaccine because I believe that it is the solution to our problem. I believe taking the vaccine can improve my life. There are other vaccines, like the polio vaccine, which children come for. Research the impact vaccines have had in society. I see this vaccine as just another vaccine which can help us. I believe and hope it will protect all of us.”
Final year medical student, Azhar Adam Nadkar, has never been infected before but has lost loved ones to the virus. Working in a clinical environment during the COVID-19 pandemic evoked many fears for the 23-year-old. “The fear of contracting the virus and potentially passing it onto vulnerable family members or patients has been a major concern. However, as a future medical doctor, I appreciated the importance of playing my role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Azhar also believes that vaccines can save lives and will get his shot. “Vaccines save lives, and this cannot be truer in our current reality. In order to curb the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate its associated burden on our healthcare system in terms of severe illness and mortality, it is essential that we achieve herd immunity. It is for this reason that I will take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as I have the opportunity to do so.”
The students have appealed to South Africans to keep safe while they wait to get vaccinated.
“We also need to continue wearing a mask, sanitising our hands and social distancing to protect each other and ensure the longevity of all South Africans,” urged Azhar.