COVID-19 vaccine brings hope to Groote Schuur Hospital - Dr Khatija Kadwa


Dr Khatija Kadwa says the best way to fight the pandemic is through preventive habits and COVID-19 vaccines. In this podcast, she shares how the pandemic has changed her life, how she copes with the pressures, and what having a COVID-19 vaccine means to her.

Listen to our podcast interview with Dr Kadwa:

Specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Khatija Kadwa says after months of hard work, access to a COVID-19 vaccine has brought much hope to her and her colleagues. She received her vaccine at Groote Schuur Hospital on 17 February 2021, the first day of South Africa's national vaccine rollout.

"On that first day 40 of us were vaccinated. I've never seen such a jubilant atmosphere - after the first vaccine there were cheers and celebrating," she says. "The next day we worked shifts vaccinating our colleagues."

"As doctors we can't forget that we have family and friends. We worry about taking the virus back to our families. It's been a devastating experience for all of us, personally and professionally."

"I don't think any of us had seen anything like this in our lifetimes," says Dr Kadwa about the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think we all watched from afar as COVID-19 infiltrated the world. It started overseas and we thought that we'd be fairly safe in South Africa. When it reached our shores, it was almost like a tsunami that you could see coming but couldn't stop. Despite the expertise globally and locally, no matter what we offered our patients, there was severe morbidity and mortality."

Discovery Foundation Fellow at the forefront of COVID-19

Based at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town, Dr Kadwa received a Discovery Foundation Sub-Specialist Award in Reproductive Medicine in 2020. While sub-Sharan Africa has the highest rate of secondary infertility in the world, in South Africa's public health sector, women can only access fertility services in the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Free State.

Dr Kadwa is a Discovery Foundation Fellow in Reproductive Medicine

Dr Kadwa hopes to make fertility treatment more widely available to women in other parts of the country. However, she has had to put her plans on hold to focus on COVID-19. "Many of us have been looking forward to our training but we've had to take a step back and offer more emergency care," she says.

Appreciate every day

Dr Kadwa shares how she copes with the pressures of fighting a pandemic. "COVID-19 has made us take a step back and look at our lives, what's important, and to appreciate the small things - like our health, the fact that we can breathe freely, and spending quality time with family and friends."

She takes care of her physical and mental wellbeing through exercise, spending time in nature, going for walks, hikes and trail running, and finding other pastimes outside of work.

"We don't know what tomorrow will hold," she says, "so we must appreciate each day as it comes."

"It's not just about protecting ourselves"

What does it mean to be vaccinated against COVID-19? "Getting a vaccine means you're unlikely to get severely ill or die from the disease."

Dr Khatija Kadwa received her vaccine on 17 February 2021

How effective are vaccines? She explains: "No vaccine provides 100% protection. But current data from the South African trial suggests that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides 57% protection against moderate-severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease and 100% protection against death. And it is the severe disease and death that we ultimately want to prevent."

She reminds us that having a COVID-19 vaccine is about protecting ourselves and others. "When we take the vaccine, we are choosing to protect those people who are vulnerable in our communities - it may be your parents, your siblings, your spouse or your child."

Dr Kadwa also reminds us that even though COVID-19 vaccines are now available, we must still keep up the preventive measures that limit our exposure to the disease. "Don't forget to wash your hands and keep wearing your mask. And, please self-isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and seek medical care as needed."

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