University of Pretoria: Minister Blade Nzimande gets second COVID-19 vaccine jab at University of Pretoria vaccination centre

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande was recently at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) COVID-19 vaccination centre to receive his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Addressing attendees and members of the media, Minister Nzimande said every time he visits UP he is awed by the work that is being done at the institution. “I am proud to congratulate UP for being a vaccination centre; and what is nice is that this vaccination site is not just a centre for UP personnel and students, but a vaccination centre that is accessible to the [wider] community. It is gratifying that we are not selfish as a sector.

“What makes me even happier is that UP has a very strong link with the students’ parents in a variety of ways as an institution. One of my biggest problems in the sector that I have noticed as a minister is the absence of parents when it comes to university students, particularly at the height of #FeesMustFall [protests]. During that era I wanted to speak to parents but I could not find them. My own wish and dream is that all our institutions must become what I saw in the United States of America at some stage: the idea of anchor institutions. All our universities are national institutions, but they should be responding to needs in their own localities and regions, so that they become part of the anchor institutions that are supposed to make a difference. We have got huge challenges in our country and universities, including unemployment and inequality. Universities have a huge role to play in addressing some of these challenges. I am very proud that UP is on a path to transform itself not just into a contemporary South African university, but into a South African university of the future as well.”

UP, through its Faculty of Health Sciences, has become the first academic institution in South Africa to open a COVID-19 vaccination site. On 7 June the University vaccinated its first patient at its Prinshof Campus.

The facility is classified as a non-medical outreach site for Pretoria’s FF Ribeiro Clinic and is currently administering vaccinations to healthcare workers registered on the Health Professions Council of South Africa and other citizens who qualify in the current phase of South Africa’s vaccination drive.

The Faculty is administering nearly 100 vaccinations daily and will increase capacity once more vaccines are available. Dean of the Faculty Professor Tiaan de Jager said, “Master’s students from the Faculty have received training from the FF Ribeiro Clinic and are helping patients through the registration processes before registered nurses vaccinate patients against COVID-19. The Faculty is also in the process of vaccinating students, healthcare workers and staff from the University who meet the criteria.”

“I would like to congratulate UP for its community engagement. We talk about teaching, learning and research very proudly as higher education, the Minister always reminds us that a third big role of higher education is community engagement,” said Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of Higher Health, noting that the Delta variant of the virus fuelling the country’s third wave of infections shows an “affinity to young people”.

“Also, I am grateful to UP for supporting the HealthCheck system; as of 01 July 2021 we have reached 13 million passports. People have realised the importance of self-screening as well.”

In his presentation, UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe pointed out that since COVID-19 struck, UP had, among other initiatives, activated a university crisis management committee and created response task team; created a dedicated COVID-19 mini-website with regular and relevant COVID-19-related updates to students and staff; launched an educational campaign; a team of UP psychologists and psychiatrists created a Well-Being@UP blog; UP established a dedicated fund (the UP Solidarity Fund) and launched various initiatives to support students in financial need and keep the institution running.

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