False stories about vaccines may cause harm

President Cyril Ramaphosa says there is much misinformation being circulated about the COVID-19 vaccine which is causing fear and confusion.

“The scientific evidence before us shows that vaccines work. They are safe. They are effective, and they save lives.

“If you have any questions about the vaccine, if you are unsure in any way, please consult the information being provided by the Department of Health and from doctors,” said the President on Sunday evening, when he announced a move to Adjusted Alert Level 4 from midnight for 14 days.

He said false stories are being spread on WhatsApp groups, on social media, and by word of mouth about the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that the vaccine is not safe, that it can make you sick, or that it does not work.

“I have said it before, and I wish to say it again: please think long and hard before you press share or send. Please consider the harm you may be causing. You are spreading panic, fear and confusion at a time when we can ill-afford it.”

President Ramaphosa said there is evidence that the vaccines being used in South Africa are effective against the delta variant.

The Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee will continue to consider all data at its disposal and will adapt its advice as and when new evidence emerges.

“We must also remember that some vaccinated people may still become infected, regardless of variant, because no vaccine is 100% effective. Where vaccinated people do get infected, the symptoms tend to be mild.

“The most important thing is that any of the vaccines we are rolling out will protect you against severe disease, hospitalisation and, most importantly, death,” said the President.

As of midnight on Saturday, nearly 2.7 million people in South Africa had received a vaccine dose.

In the last week, the daily vaccination rate surpassed 100 000.

In the last three days, an additional 1.2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been received through the COVAX facility.

“With these additional supplies, we will be able to rapidly increase the rate of vaccination this week and in the weeks that follow.

“In line with our national roll-out plan, over 950 000 health care workers have now been vaccinated across the country and the registration and vaccination of this cohort continues.

“The second phase of our roll out has also gone well with the drive for the registration and vaccination of the over 60 year old group continuing to yield good results,” said President Ramaphosa.

While the country has yet to reach all of the estimated 5 million citizens in this group, each province has now embarked on social mobilisation drives to assist the elderly to register and receive their vaccination.

To date, 3.8 million people have been registered on the electronic vaccination database.

The President said as “much as we had hoped this pandemic would pass quickly, we know the reality to be vastly different”.

He urged the continued use of tried and tested public health measures of wearing a mask in public; regularly washing or sanitising hands; keeping a safe distance from others and remaining at home unless it is necessary.

“They are not complicated, difficult or expensive. Whatever inconvenience they may be to us, they are certainly better than becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalisation.”

National vaccination programme

The national vaccination programme will be rolled out along three defined streams.

The first stream is the general population according to age groups. The next cohort of 50 to 59 year olds can begin registration on 1 July and vaccination of this group will begin on 15 July.

The second stream has already commenced with people working in the basic education sector, with 184 000 vaccinations recorded to date.

The third stream focusses on police and other security personnel. This group will start their jabs on 5 July.

The fourth stream is through workplace programmes in key economic sectors such as mining, manufacturing and the taxi industry.

Source: South African Government News Agency