Health minister on vaccine targets and a fourth Covid-19 wave in South Africa

While the country is unlikely to avert a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, a higher vaccination rate over the next month could substantially reduce its impact, says health minister Dr Joe Phaahla.

This is especially likely if coverage among people aged 50 and older could be accelerated, he said. To date, over 80% of confirmed Covid-19 deaths have been in this age group.

“Three out of five people aged 50 and older have now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“If we can get close to five out of five people in this age group vaccinated by the end of the year, we will crush the power of the fourth wave by substantially reducing the number of hospital admissions and deaths.”

Analysts and health experts have indicated that South Africa is likely to be impacted by a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections over the December/January holiday period.

An analysis published by professional services firm PwC at the end of October forecasts that government is also likely to reintroduce some lockdown restrictions over this period to reduce infections and hospitalisations.

On Monday (8 November), South Africa reported 116 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,924,072.

Deaths have reached 89,352 (+20), while recoveries have climbed to 2,818,236, leaving the country with a balance of 16,484 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 23,264,992 (+113,169).

Phaahla said vaccination sites will be open across the country during the upcoming Vooma weekend (12 – 14 November), and the goal is to ensure at least 95% capacity on Saturday. While fewer sites will open on Sunday, the focus will be on outreach to large faith congregations willing to be vaccinated on that day.

In the first Vooma Vaccination Weekend, over 1,000 frontline health workers and health service managers received certificates of appreciation signed by President Ramaphosa, and district management teams will nominate sub-district vaccination and outreach teams for recognition in the coming Vooma Weekend.

“As we prepare to express our appreciation to health professionals who have worked tirelessly to vaccinate South Africans, we would also like to thank almost 16 million South Africans who have vaccinated to date.  Your efforts will ensure that we break the power of this deadly pandemic and speed up the process of saving lives and livelihoods,” said Phaahla.

Read: Resigning rather than being vaccinated in South Africa – what you should know

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Health minister on vaccine targets and a fourth Covid-19 wave in South Africa