Senior citizens from Khayelitsha Kuyasa receiving their first Pfizer vaccine at Kuyasa Library. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Senior citizens from Khayelitsha Kuyasa receiving their first Pfizer vaccine at Kuyasa Library. Photographer Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

SA’s woeful vaccination programme equally to blame for surge in Covid cases

By Editorial Time of article published Jun 1, 2021

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Four of the country’s nine provinces, including Gauteng, are already battling a third wave of Covid-19 infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday during his “family meeting” address.

The government placed the country on adjusted alert level 2 saying the changes made would contain the third wave.

It is alarming to note that South Africa is officially the worst-hit country on the continent, with more than 1.65 million cases and 56 363 deaths.

The country has seen two previous surges in infections, the first in the middle of last year and a second, much worse wave in December and January when the emergence of a variant pushed infections and deaths to higher levels than the first surge.

While Ramaphosa has pointed to human behaviour and conduct in public as the cause of the surge in infections, we need to add that the country’s woeful vaccination programme was equally to blame.

At the moment, the vaccines are not altering infection levels because not enough people have been vaccinated, and it takes several weeks after vaccination for immunity to kick in.

The surge in cases also cast more attention on South Africa’s lagging vaccine roll-out. Only about 1.5% of the country’s 60 million people have received a vaccine.

The government, under fire for failing to buy vaccines quickly, says it has paid for doses to cover 40 million of the 59 million South Africans – or enough to reach herd immunity.

Positive cases in South Africa in the past seven days were 31% higher than the week before, and 66% higher than the week before that, Ramaphosa said.

Medical scientists and experts had earlier pointed to super-spreader events such as the Easter weekend and the Eid celebration as potential causes for the uptick in cases. However, they have since discounted those as drivers of the current rising cases.

Calling on the people to continue using non-pharmaceutical interventions, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize last week warned if the infection rate continued to rise and spread to other provinces, the entire country could be engulfed by the third wave.

In Covid-19, we have a formidable enemy.

The Star

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