Cape Town - As South Africa braces for the Covid-19 fifth wave driven by an increase in Omicron infections, the Health Department says vaccinations remain low despite it being the best way to combat the virus.
The department's deputy director-general, Dr Nicholas Crisp said they have had to review their current vaccination strategies because people are not responding to it and coming forward for the jab.
“The 2022 rollout has been slower due to a number of factors including lack of appetite by the public to come forward in numbers, probably because Omicron is less severe compared to previous variants,” he said.
Since the rollout began to the general public in May last year, 35.3 million vaccines have been administered to 19.7 million people in South Africa.
With under half of the adult population vaccinated, the Health Department failed to meet its original target of inoculating two-thirds of adults by the end of 2021.
In August 2021, over 1.2 million vaccines were administered in one week.
Meanwhile, during the month of May, weekly vaccination tallies have been below 60 000.
“We are exploring various vaccine demand creation strategies to increase vaccine uptake, especially among the most vulnerable groups,” said Crisp.
Senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr Ridhwaan Suliman said the country is well into its fifth wave of Covid-19 infections.
“Case incidences are now at 11.9 per 100k and up to 30.4% of the previous peak. But it is fine and we shouldn't read that with fear, anxiety or panic! The situation is different to two years ago, although it has come at a price,” he said.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Wednesday recorded 10 017 new Covid-19 cases, which represents a 25% positivity rate.
Public health medicine specialist at the University of the Witwatersrand, Dr Harsha Somaroo, emphasised that people should continue implementing the simple preventative measures, such as the wearing of face masks and avoiding poorly ventilated and crowded settings.
“Everyone should be vaccinated, and appropriately boosted, to reduce their risk of severe disease and death. Also, preventing transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will decrease the risk of new variants emerging over time,” she said.