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Number of SA children vaccinated drops by 30% due to lockdown

Picture: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Picture: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Published Jun 4, 2020


Cape Town - Data shows a significant drop in the numbers of children who received immunisations in April this year compared with the same month in 2019 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Health has said.

Briefing the health standing committee on tuberculosis-related cases and levels of children’s vaccinations in the province, the department’s deputy director for information management Lesley Shand said: “Our situation last year was that 85% of children under one year old were fully immunised and, overall, we have seen a 30% drop in April 2020 compared to April 2019.”

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“The worst affected districts were the Cape Metro, the Overberg and the West Coast - all hot spot areas.”

Shand said the department would be relying heavily on community health workers to deliver adaptive and responsive immunisation services.

With regards to TB services, Shand said: “Ordinarily, we screen about 51% of patients who come to our primary health-care facilities. The impact of Covid-19 is that such opportunistic screening and testing has (been) reduced because we have fewer people coming to our facilities for reasons such as fear of catching the virus and the inconvenience of queuing outside facilities with physical distancing requirements.”

The department’s chief director for strategy and health support, Dr Krish Vallabhjee, said: “The main message is that there’s definitely been a drop off in services.

“As far as TB goes, the concern is not so much those patients that are already on treatment, as they are receiving their medicines, but the main challenge is the screening, diagnosing and starting on treatment of new patients.”

Vallabhjee said the department had been trying to create capacity over the past 10-12 weeks, because of the expected service pressure and surge in the numbers of Covid-19 patients.

“There has been an intentional de-escalation of services in the department at all levels, from primary healthcare, right up to hospital levels and critical care to try and create capacity.”


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Cape Argus