By Monday 40% of adults will have had at least one Covid-19 jab, says health minister

By Monday, 40% of adults would have received at least a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine, while roughly a third have been fully vaccinated, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.

“As of last night 23 684 440 doses had been administered to 15 818 324 individuals constituting 39.75% of the adult population,” the minister told a media briefing. “By Monday, 15 November, we will reach 40% of the adult population with at least one dose of a vaccine.”

Phaahla said the Western Cape, Free State, Limpopo and Eastern Cape, at about 45% and 48%, were close to the halfway mark for full vaccination.

“If the other provinces can start to pull up we can reach 50% nationally soon,” he added.

The minister said health authorities had the capacity to vaccinate all adults by the year’s end.

Full vaccination of 60% of people over the age of 50 and 70% of people over the age of 60 was in sight, he said, but expressed concern about the relatively slow rate of vaccination in the 18 to 34 age group, which he blamed on “fake news”. 

“The uptake by young adults between 18 to 34 years is worrisome at 24.8%. It is clear that fake news in the social media space has a huge impact,” said Phaahla.

About a quarter of a million teenagers have been innoculated since vaccination opened on October 20 for the 12 to 17 age group.

The health minister said the Covid-19 positivity rate had remained stable at an average 1%, with between 200 and 500 new infections recorded daily. On Thursday, the total number of confirmed active infections stood at 16 396. There were 3 636 Covid-19 patients in hospital of whom 420 were in intensive care and 164 on ventilation.

The fatality rate has dropped, with 17 deaths recorded on Thursday.

Phaala ventured that thus far, 11 days after local government elections, fears that the poll would lead to an increase in Covid-19 infections appeared to have been unfounded. “So far not a single province or district has shown signs of a spike in Covid-19 infections.” 

That said, he warned that South Africa was expecting a fourth wave of the pandemic, and was actively preparing for it.

”While no one can tell with certainty as to when the fourth wave is coming, there is no doubt that it is inevitable, driven by movement of people and new variants,” he said, adding that genomic sequencing teams monitoring any variants of concern have not detected any cause for alarm so far.

As the festive season approached, it was imperative that vaccination be stepped up, he said.

A panel headed by former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke had recommended that the 1 November elections be postponed because of the pandemic, and the risk that it could drive up infections, but the Constitutional Court dismissed an application by the Electoral Commission of South Africa to delay the polls until February 2022.

More than 72 000 vaccine shots were administered to people outside 1 000 of the polling stations on voting day, according to Phaahla.

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