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Vaccines for the homeless!

While many of those who are entitled to the Covid-19 vaccination uhm and aah about whether they should take it or not, many thousands of people forced to live on the edges of society are desperately trying to work out how to access the life-saving jab.

South Africa’s huge, unsung workforce of illegal immigrants come to mind as a cohort without obvious access, as do the many homeless and undocumented people living on the streets.

Thankfully, says Carlos Mesquita, who represents the Strandfontein Homeless Action Coalition (SHAC) as well as Cape Town’s Homeless Action Committee (HAC), Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Health in the Western Cape, was quick to grab the opportunity to help homeless people become part of the barrier against illness that vaccinated people offer to all of society.

Mesquita said the SHAC, the homeless advocacy group started in the camp in Strandfontein where homeless people were held during the hard lockdown in 2020, and HAC – which has 50% representation of homeless people themselves – had been trying to get homeless people IDs so that they could vote in elections and access basic services, when it was pointed out to them that an ID was also required for the vaccinations

“This being a life and death situation, we zoned in on it, hoping to get the IDs issued.” 

Nomafrench Mbombo, MEC for Health in the Western Cape

He said the Department of Home Affairs had been slow to react, but Mbombo “showed real concern when she visited us for details”.

He said the Health MEC had asked the HAC to collate lists in order to get an idea of what was required.

“She has accepted our proposal of 10 areas, and people will be registered on the day with their hospital/clinic patient number, as most homeless people have these,” said Mesquita, who also manages Our House in Oranjezicht.

He said that the Hope Exchange and Reverend Annie Kirke were an integral part of this accomplishment.

 “Big Ups to the MEC”, Mesquita said, adding that her department had arranged for information pamphlets to be printed and distributed.

“We have a team going out to the different areas informing the homeless and educating them on the virus and vaccine. We will alert all service providers to the homeless to spread the word about dates and venues as they are finalised.”

“To avoid a second jab, which will prove difficult with the homeless, they will be using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and we are trying to arrange a safe place for those who have bad reactions from the vaccine,” added Mesquita.

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