The government’s national vaccination rollout programme “struggled” over the festive season, with the number of daily jabs administered throughout the country remaining below 100,000.
This was revealed on Friday by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla, during the Department of Health’s first virtual briefing for the new year on government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Phaahla said the decrease in the uptake of vaccines was in spite of government improving access to the public in December, with mobile and pop-up sites at places such as toll gates, roadblocks, shopping malls and beachfronts.
“The uptake of these opportunities was not as big as we had hoped as people focused on their festivities and their leisure,” the minister said.
He said after a near-total lull in people pitching up to get their vaccines between Christmas and New Year, the vaccination rate has picked up slightly.
However, vaccination rates still remain below 100,000 doses administered per day.
“This is not good enough and we hope that we can be able to push it higher,” Phaahla said.
As of Thursday, the total number of people who had received their vaccines in South Africa was 28,782,337, with a total of 18.4 million adults having received their jabs. This translated to 45.5% of all adults above the age of 18 who received at least one jab.
Those who are fully vaccinated stood at just under 16 million, at 15,9 million. This translated to just over 40% of South Africa’s adult population.
The health department admitted last year it would not reach its ambitious target to vaccinate 70% of South Africa’s adult population by the end of December 2021, and hopes to do better this year.
Free State leading
The Free State was the leading province in terms of the most number of vaccines administered in SA, at 54.1%, followed by the Western Cape at 53.6%, Limpopo 52.2% and Eastern Cape 50%.
Phaahla said the other provinces were the Northern Cape at 47%, North West at 44.6% and Gauteng at 42.7%.
“At the bottom is Mpumalanga 39.5% and KwaZulu-Natal 39%. Last night [Thursday], Gauteng crossed eight million doses administered which is a significant milestone. The challenge is the huge population to be serviced,” he said.
Covid fourth wave
Earlier, Phaahla said Gauteng province this week had officially exited the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, with South Africa’s eight other provinces having reached their peaks.
“We can now officially say that Gauteng has technically exited the fourth wave this week, and all other provinces have reached their peaks and are now on the decline,” Phaahla said.
The minister attributed the decrease in hospitalisations and deaths during the fourth wave, which was driven by the Omicron variant, to the uptake in vaccinations.
Despite this, Phaahla said Omicron remained deadly for the unvaccinated, people of advanced age and those with comorbidities.
He encouraged those who have not been vaccinated to get immunised against the virus.
Phaahla said there was a very clear correlation between those who are unvaccinated among the reported hospital admissions, compared to those who had received their jabs.
“We must emphasise that the fourth wave is showing unequivocally the protection of vaccination against severe illness and death,” he said.