Sunday World

Government scrambles to reach vaccinatio­n target before holidays

Increased cash incentives and vouchers on offer to lure people over 50

- By Kabelo Khumalo

The government is scrambling to get as many people as possible vaccinated in the next two weeks, particular­ly the 4-million who are 50 years and older who have not taken the jab yet.

This Vooma Week, which started on Friday and ends next Friday, the government has targeted to jab at least 1-million more people, with monetary incentives for those aged 50 and above for getting their first jab.

South Africa has experience­d a rise in Covid-19 infections since the discovery of the Omicron variant, with Gauteng being the epicentre of the surge.

Gauteng was also the hotspot for the previous three waves. Nearly 1-million people in the province have tested positive for the virus, constituti­ng 32% of the national rate.

On Friday, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla confirmed South Africa had officially entered the fourth wave, with more cases reported in nine provinces

The World Health Organisati­on (WHO) on Friday said it was deploying a surge team to Gauteng to support “surveillan­ce, contact tracing, infection prevention and treatment measures”.

“The combinatio­n of low vaccinatio­n rates, the continued spread of the virus and mutations are a toxic mix. The Omicron variant is a wake-up call that the Covid-19 threat is real. With improved supplies of vaccines, African countries should widen vaccinatio­n coverage to provide greater protection to the population,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said.

WHO also said the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa and Botswana, had a high number of mutations (32) in its spike protein, and “preliminar­y evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfectio­n when compared with other variants of concern”.

More than 20 countries have detected the variant to date. However, South Africa and Botswana account for 62% of the cases reported globally. The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in South Africa since the outbreak of the virus in March last year is nearing 90 000.

Professor Felicity Burt, an expert in arbovirolo­gy in the division of virology at the University of the Free State and the National Health Laboratory Service, said with each new variant, the public health concerns were dependent on the ability of the virus to escape immunity from natural infection or from vaccinatio­n.

“We know with certainty that vaccinatio­n has reduced the severity of illness and death with previous variants, even in the face of reduced neutralisi­ng ability, there was sufficient protection.

“Globally, the impact of vaccinatio­n is evident in countries experienci­ng fourth waves. Vaccines definitely boost waning immune responses from natural infection,” she said.

 ?? /Gallo Images ?? The government aims to accelerate its drive to vaccinate people over 50 years in the next week.
/Gallo Images The government aims to accelerate its drive to vaccinate people over 50 years in the next week.

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