South Africa’s daily Covid-19 vaccination rate plunged this week, indicating that the inoculation drive may be losing steam amid criticism of a lack of information about the shots among more remote and impoverished communities.
Just 159,542 doses were administered on 20 September, the lowest amount on a weekday since 13 August, when 147,307 vaccinations were given, according to government statistics.
That’s short of its yet-to-be attained target of 300,000 daily doses, and also the lowest since 18-to-35 year-olds became eligible for vaccines on 1 September.
South Africa has administered 16.36 million doses to date, with just 8.11 million of the country’s almost 40 million adults now fully vaccinated.
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla has said that South Africa will need to reach another 18 million more adults to achieve 70% coverage of the adult population by December.
Addressing the media on Friday (17 September), Phaahla said that the government is still focused on vaccinating adults, with the main priority being people over the age of 50 ahead of a potential fourth wave at the end of the year.
However, Phaahla acknowledged a decision by the South African health regulator to approve Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for use for children over the age of 12.
Depending on the number of adults that have been vaccinated at the end of October, the government will then look at reviewing its policy of vaccinating people under the age of 18, he said.
“Even though we know the Pfizer vaccine has been approved (for children), we want to remain focused on the high-risk people as of now.
“If we can reach 70% of the of the 50+ age group when the next wave comes, our hospitals will not be as overwhelmed as they have been.”
Phaahla said that the government is aware of pressure from schools to have children vaccinated. Other factors that will be considered are the local government elections on 1 November, which could be a super-spreader event and an excess vaccine supply that will allow the under 18 age group to be targeted.
“We think it will be very risky to be all over and start just vaccinating people everywhere. Let’s manage the schools, and keep on pushing the elderly to get vaccinated.”
On Tuesday (21 September), South Africa reported 2,197 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported cases to 2,886,331.
Deaths have reached 86,376 (+160), while recoveries have climbed to 2,743,865, leaving the country with a balance of 56,090 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 16,358,076 (+195,189).
With further reporting by Bloomberg.