Only about 15% of the population — nine million people —has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Wits University vaccinologist Professor Shabir Madhi.
“We have to be clear in South Africa that the single dose of the J&J [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine is not a complete vaccination. You need two doses of the J&J vaccine to optimise protection against severe disease. Currently, nine million people out of a population of about 60 million have received two doses of the vaccine and now have reasonable protection against severe Covid-19.”
During a Mail & Guardian webinar on Monday night, Madhi said South Africa should have vaccinated about 90% of the population above the age 35 by now — and had not vaccinated 60% of people aged 50 and above.
“They are the priority group because they contribute to 85% to 90% of hospitalisations and deaths in South Africa during the first three waves. We need their coverage to be at least 90%. This would put us on a better footing when we do experience a resurgence which is currently underway.”
Madhi said the main goal of vaccination is not to prevent infection; it is to minimise the number of people who are admitted to hospital and who die.
He said scientists do not yet know how well the vaccine will protect people against the new Covid variant, Omicron.
“We are going to experience breakthrough infections in people who have received the vaccines. However, this time around, in vaccinated individuals those breakthrough infections are less likely to result in severe disease irrespective of the age of the individual.”
Listen to the rest of the interview here: