While the number of active Covid-19 cases continue to decline in Gauteng, health officials on Monday warned that the risk of a fourth wave remained very high amid a low uptake in vaccinations in the province.
Professor Bruce Mellado, a member of Premier David Makhura’s advisory committee on Covid-19, said the fourth wave was likely to hit Gauteng between November this year and January 2022.
Mellado said they were predicting that the fourth wave would likely be brought forward by super-spreader events due to the number of people allowed to gather under level 1 lockdown and the upcoming local government elections scheduled for 1 November.
“We should not be confused or misled by the fact that we are currently in a situation of low risk, that can change quite rapidly within weeks,” he said.
Mellado was speaking at a media briefing at Itireleng Community Health Centre in Dobsonville, Soweto, where the provincial command council on Covid-19 gave an update on Gauteng’s vaccination drive.
To ensure that the fourth wave is not as severe as the third wave that gripped the country for months unlike the previous two waves, Mellado said the province was ramping up vaccinations among older age groups and people with comorbidities.
“We have to ensure Covid-19 safe practices are adhered to during campaigning, registration and voting in local elections,” he said.
Makhura ‘worried’ about Gauteng’s vaccination rate
Meanwhile, Makhura said the provincial government was concerned about the fourth wave, particularly the low uptake in vaccinations among residents living in townships.
“The fourth wave is something we are still worried about… But if we had more vaccinations we wouldn’t be as worried,” Makhura said.
He added: “Election day is going to be possibly the most intense, with regard to how many people are going to be getting out. From the elections, we know that we are going into the festive season and people are going to be travelling.”
Makhura admitted that Gauteng was unlikely to reach its target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of the year due to people not showing up at vaccination sites.
He said in the last two weeks, the province has been administering between 52,000 and 58,000 jabs daily, which is a drop from over 60,000 average daily vaccinations in September.
“We are not retreating on our target for 70% vaccinations, but the idea that we will reach 70% by mid-December is becoming a target that is elusive,” Makhura said.
Joburg has most vaccinations
The premier said Johannesburg was leading in terms of the number of vaccines administered in Gauteng.
“Out of the 5.3 million vaccines administered in Gauteng, Johannesburg has done the largest of them… but the good story is that at least 1.1 million people in Johannesburg are fully vaccinated,” Makhura said.
He said he was also worried that more than a million people had not returned for their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Gauteng has been administering mainly the double dose Pfizer vaccine while government has prioritised the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine for rural and remote areas across the country.
“This number is not changing [and] we still have a full one million people who have only taken their first doses… they are a little bit reluctant to go back to take their second doses or they are taking longer to come back.
“I want to say our vaccination sites are running very well and there shouldn’t be people who are worried about queues and waiting for messages to come back,” Makhura said.
Makhura said the provincial government had a long way to go to ensure that at least 50% of the adult population is vaccinated before the end of the year.
“We are not even at 50% with regards to the single doses. Here in Gauteng, we are at 32% single doses for both J&J and Pfizer. We would be happier if we were at least 60%.
“For people to be protected, we really need to reach many more people,” he said.