Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
12 Nov 2021
9:33 am

Want a merrier festive season? Then get your vaccine, urges health department

Nica Richards

The festive season means increased movement of people between provinces, which spreads the virus faster. 

The health department is urging those who have not yet received their Covid-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible - to avoid at all costs a repeat of last year's dismal festive season. Picture for illustration: iStock

As the festive season creeps closer, so does the imminent threat of an inevitable fourth wave of Covid-19 infections. 

The health department is urging those who have not yet received their Covid-19 vaccine to do so as soon as possible – to avoid a repeat of last year’s dismal festive season.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the department has enough capacity to administer enough vaccines to all adult residents, both South African and non-South African, by the end of December. 

This is especially important to consider, as the festive season means increased movement of people between provinces, which spreads the virus faster. 

“It is urgent that more people get vaccinated. We want everyone to be protected from the fourth wave,” Phaahla emphasised. 

ALSO READ: Covid-19 fourth wave likely to peak lower than previous waves

SA needs to get closer to 70%

More than 13 million adults have been fully vaccinated, representing 33.2% of the population, and more than 15 million people, or 39.75% of the population, have received at least one dose. 

By Monday, Phaahla said 40% of the country’s adult population will have received at least one dose. 

This as 23,684,000 vaccine doses have been administered. 

ALSO READ: Vooma Vaccination Weekend: Government to ramp up inoculations ahead of festive season

Four provinces are close to vaccinating 50% of adults, namely the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State and Limpopo. 

But despite this, the 18-to-34-year-old age group vaccination uptake is “worrisome”, with Phaahla saying this rollout was moving too slowly. In this age group, just under 25% of the population had received their jabs. 

A major contributing factor to this hesitancy, Phaahla said, was “fake news on social media”. 

Encouragingly, 63.4% of the 60-plus age group has been vaccinated, and in the 50+ age group, 57.4% of people have received their vaccine. 

Fourth wave inevitable 

Statistics are currently stable, and so far, election campaigns and 1 November, the day of local government elections, have not yet resulted in any super-spreader side effects. 

In fact, the 1,000 mobile vaccination sites set up near election sites, with the help of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), resulted in an additional 70,000 people getting their vaccines. 

ALSO READ: Elections and school holidays make Covid fourth wave risk real

Infection rates have remained stable over the past month. Daily infection rates are between 200 and 500, with an average positivity rate of 1%. 

Just over 16,000 active cases are currently in South Africa, which is relatively high, but less than at the peak of the third wave, Phaahla said. 

Hospitalisations are also currently quite high, at just over 3,000. Just over 400 people are in ICU, with 164 of them on ventilation. Facility rates have dropped, with 17 people reported dead due to Covid-19 over the last 24 hours. 

“We want to see a situation where no one dies. But the numbers are a reminder that while the rate of infection is low, stat show at a lower base, the virus is still there, and is causing a lot of harm,” Phaahla warned. 

Contingency plans have already been put in place for the inevitable fourth wave, including oxygen supplier Afrox securing enough oxygen supply. 

Bed capacity, equipment, ventilators, personal protective equipment and other consumables needed during the fourth wave have also been receiving attention. 

ALSO READ: Matric rage takes a ‘no vax, no entry’ policy for 2021

A number of additional staff members are also due to be employed on short-term contracts, to ensure there are enough people to look after sick patients. 

There is also still a World Health Organization technical team in the country to help with fourth wave preparations.

Phaahla said it was still not yet known when the fourth wave would officially hit, with variants and mutations being carefully monitored.

“Mutations are happening, but no variants are of concern yet.”