Priority vaccination plea to save lives

With the rate of infections ever climbing and new variants always posing a risk, QASA is fighting to ensure its members are kept safe

Risk of death rather than mortality rates should be the criteria that secures priority vaccination argues the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA). The organisation has made a plea to the Department of Health to include quadriplegics and paraplegics in the second round of the vaccine roll out. The organisations hopes this will prevent deaths among its members and ensure no one is left behind.

“Many quadriplegics and paraplegics are at a higher risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus,” explains Raven Benny, QASA COO. “By pushing their wheelchairs, catheterising or accepting assistance from their carer, they are placed in high-risk situations.

“For most, social distancing from their caregiver, family or friends is impossible as they need assistance with daily, essential activities. A vaccination might not prevent them from contracting the coronavirus, but it could prevent hospitalisation.”

Many quadriplegics and paraplegics are at an increased risk of falling severely ill when contracting COVID-19. Due to lifestyle factors, like a sedentary routine, many in the community have co-morbidities like diabetes or high blood pressure. In addition, pressure sores (an open wound) and urinary tract infections are common and put strain on an already compromised immune system.

Aside from the impact on limbs, a spinal cord injury plays havoc on the immune systems and nervous systems of quadriplegics and paraplegics. The immune system is slowed, which gives the virus more opportunity to spread.

“We want to keep our members out of hospital as we are very much aware that, unfortunately, they are not always considered a priority,” Raven continues. “In times of disaster, doctors will do what is best for the majority, which might mean denying a high-risk patient access to a ventilator to help others.

“We respect the medical practices that prioritise saving as many people as possible,” Raven continues. “Instead, we are calling on the Department of Health to save lives. They have the resources to make sure our members are never placed in a situation where a doctor needs to decide between saving them and another with a strong immune system. We need to be vaccinated.”

“A spinal cord injury plays havoc on the immune and nervous systems.”

QASA wrote to the Department twice. After the first letter, the Department enquired about the mortality rate among members. Aside from the limited information available regarding deaths, QASA argues that there is sufficient reasons to vaccinate the community.

“Are we going to be denied because there haven’t been enough deaths? How many should die before we are considered vulnerable? We call on the Department of Health to put risk of death as the highest priority rather than existing mortality rates,” says Raven.

“Afterall, are they in the business of saving lives or counting corpses?” he concludes.

Fortunately, for older quadriplegics and paraplegics, it is possible to get their jab sooner. South Africans over the age of 60* can now register for their vaccination. The vaccine can dramatically improve your chances of only developing mild symptoms.

Like the common flu, COVID-19 can’t be cured. The virus is continuously mutating. The vaccine can’t prevent someone from contracting the coronavirus. Instead, the vaccine helps build up the immune system so that when someone encounters the COVID-19 virus, they are better equipped to fight it.

In simple terms, the vaccine will lessen your chances of ending up in the hospital on a ventilator. You are more likely to have mild or no COVID-19 symptoms. For individuals who are already at risk of falling severely ill the vaccine is a great way to improve your health.

While the vaccine can better protect you against COVID, it can’t protect those around you. It is believed that vaccinated individuals could still be carriers. Therefore, it is best to still practice social distancing, wearing a mask and staying home as much as possible.

*Correction: The vaccine is available to everyone 50 years or older from 1 July 2021.


How to register for the COVID-19 vaccine

Only persons 50 years or older can register for the vaccine currently.

  • Visit the government vaccination registration website: https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za/#/.
  • Enter your ID number.
  • Complete the “general information” section, which requests some personal information.
  • Provide your employment information in the next session
  • If you are a medical aid member, be sure to have this information at hand for the registration process.
  • Provide information on your “primary location of work”.
  • Accept the terms and conditions.

Thereafter, the website will confirm that the registration was successful. You should also receive an SMS.

You can update your information, although, this will require re-registering for the vaccine on the website. The government will inform you when you can visit your local centre to be vaccinated.