WHO science council member Salim Abdool Karim says that Covid-19 vaccines should be made mandatory in South Africa, with exceptions only for those who cannot take a vaccine for strong medical reasons or religious reasons.
Karim told eNCA that the severity and seriousness of the pandemic mean that the option to take a vaccine is no longer a personal choice.
“When you (consider) the original virus that jumped from bats and came to humans, it probably just came into one person,” he said. “That one person has caused all the mayhem we have seen today, and probably didn’t even know that they caused it.”
Karim said that this is also the case for the Covid-19 variants which are currently spreading across the world, with these variants likely starting in just one or two people at most.
“So even one unvaccinated person poses that risk to the whole world. If that’s the case, and it’s a very strong one, then it can’t be simply a matter of personal choice. It has to be that for the public good that there is a vaccine mandate.”
Karim said that there may be certain individuals who cannot be vaccinated for strong religious or medical reasons, and concessions must be made for these people.
However, he said that these people will still need to be tested at least once a week to ensure that they do not put others at risk.
On Friday (20 August), the government opened Covid-19 vaccines to all adults 18 years older as it looks to significantly boost its vaccination numbers.
In recent weeks, the country’s vaccine problem has switched from a supply to a demand issue, and health officials have raised concerns around vaccine hesitancy.
A survey last month found that about 54% of nationals say they are unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccine and almost half say they believe prayer provides more protection than the shots.
One issue of concern in South Africa is a particular reluctance to be vaccinated among men, said Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general in the department of health.
“This is not good,” Crisp said. “It means that men are going to end up very sick and in hospital and we don’t want that to happen just prior to Christmas.”
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla warned that there is still a very long road ahead as the number of new infections continues to spike.
On Wednesday (25 August), South Africa reported 13,251 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,722,202.
Deaths have reached 80,469 (+516), while recoveries have climbed to 2,474,245, leaving the country with a balance of 167,488 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 11,363,810 (+287,704).