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Vaccination roll-out expands and Chinese vaccine approv...

Maverick Citizen

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Vaccination roll-out expands and Chinese vaccine approved while South Africa battles ‘worrying’ rise in third wave

Teachers at the launch of the roll-out of vaccines to the education sector on 23 June 2021 in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Misha Jordaan)

As the sluggish Covid-19 vaccination roll-out opens for more South Africans, including the over-50s and members of the police service, the regulatory authority has approved a new vaccine while the high transmissibility of the Delta variant spurs on the country’s third wave.

Just over three million South Africans had been vaccinated against Covid-19 by Sunday, and the roll-out, opening for South Africans over 50, will extend this week for about 180,000 South African Police Service officers and staff. 

South Africa is still “some way from herd immunity” and not out of the dark, according to Professor Adrian Puren, acting executive director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). 

Puren said a much larger percentage of the population would need to be vaccinated given the high transmissibility of the Delta variant that is spurring on the country’s third wave.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) on Saturday announced the authorisation of a new Covid-19 vaccine, CoronaVac, manufactured by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, but only for the age group 18-59 and with conditions. 

While its authorisation will allow for the government and organisations to procure it, “there is no evidence of the performance of the vaccine in the setting of the Delta variant”, said Puren. 

“This does add a layer of complexity when rolling out vaccines,” he said. “Nevertheless, it is likely that South Africa will follow the [World Health Organization’s] recommendations to address the knowledge gaps.”

Sahpra, in a statement on Saturday, said that additional data was expected from the Sinovac Life Sciences manufacturer, such as the final results of ongoing clinical studies. 

South Africa needs to access vaccines and there should be a reconsideration of the AstraZeneca vaccine given its previous approval, said Puren.

Registration for the vaccine for South Africans over 50 opened on 1 July for the roll-out scheduled to begin on 15 July.  Some registered members have begun to receive their jabs, at least via appointment via the private sector. 

In the Western Cape, the provincial Department of Health announced that from Monday, 5 July, “The [Electronic Vaccine Data System] will allocate available appointment slots in the following order of priority:

  • Priority 1 — people 60 years and older requiring their 1st dose of Pfizer vaccine;
  • Priority 2 — people 60 years and older who are eligible for their 2nd dose of Pfizer vaccine (approximately 42 days after their 1st dose);
  • Priority 3 — people aged 50-59 years requiring their 1st dose of Pfizer vaccine.”

It was not clear whether other provinces had followed suit, and under what circumstances.

By Sunday, 479,773 people had participated in the Sisonke programme, which administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and 2,826,192 had been vaccinated in the national programme, Puren said. 

“It would be highly recommended that those individuals who have only received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine receive the second dose. Current evidence shows that the optimum protection against disease and hospitalisation caused by the Delta variant is two doses,” Puren said.

While more South Africans queue for their jabs, the third wave is “taking off at a phenomenal rate,” said Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC). 

“Looking at the [stats], it looks like this [third wave] is, particularly in Gauteng, very worrying,” she said. The numbers “just keep on going up and up”.

On Saturday, the NICD reported 26,485 new cases of Covid-19 in South Africa, representing a positivity rate of 27.3%.

“We have seen currently that one person in three presenting for testing is Covid-19 infected. That would likely mean that the numbers actually infected are far greater,”  said Puren.

Although South Africa has introduced adjusted Level 4 restrictions, it takes time for these restrictions to take effect, Puren said. “It is essential that we implement these regulations as effectively as possible.”

Not yet at the peak 

The numbers continue to climb, as South Africa has not yet hit the peak of the third wave. 

“It is a huge worry because we don’t know when the peak will be — whether we are days away from the peak, or weeks,” Gray said.

Puren said that the NICD’s Covid-19 modelling consortium has scenarios of waves lasting for five to eight weeks, but the initial scenario planning did not take into account the Delta variant.

Projections would probably require recalibration to take the variant into account, he said. 

Gray said that while the Delta variant is not more severe than the Beta variant of Covid-19, it is “far more” infectious and transmissible.

The roll-out of the vaccine remains integral, she said, adding that although there has been a constraint of supply of vaccine, “it looks like things will open up. The job of the country is to make sure that the vaccine is used.” 

What was more concerning, she said, were empty queues at the vaccine stations and the low numbers registering for the vaccine. 

“You need the inhabitants of a country to want to be vaccinated,” she said.

How to register:

South Africans aged 50 and older, can register for a vaccine by:

Visiting https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za/#/.

Dialling *134*832*your ID number# or *134*832# if you don’t have an ID number to register.

Using WhatsApp, text the word “Register” to 0600 123 456.

Calling the toll-free Covid-19 hotline on 0800 029 999.

Registering in person at a vaccination site.

What do you need to register?

To register for the Covid-19 vaccination, you will need an ID number or passport, general contact information, the location of where you want to be vaccinated and, if relevant, your medical aid details. DM

Gallery

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