Gauteng ramps up vaccination drive

With the Gauteng province experiencing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the provincial government will open more vaccination sites in an effort to reach young people.

“We are targeting young people in our schools. We will continue the vaccination drive with a particular focus on young people in our communities. As schools close, schools will open as vaccination sites,” Premier David Makhura said on Thursday.

The resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the province is driven by the new Omicron variant. COVID-19 statics in the province show that on Wednesday 6 168 new cases were reported.

“Vaccination is important, we urge people to take the jab. Those who are vaccinated are only showing mild symptoms,” Makhura said.

He made these remarks during a media briefing by the Gauteng Provincial Command Council, which gave an update on COVID-19 and the vaccination drive in the province.

“This week, the good news is that we are back to above 50 000 vaccinations a day. We had fallen below 30 000 vaccinations a day in the past few weeks. If we sustain the daily vaccination of about 50 000 during this period into the festive season, we will be closer to reaching our target,” the Premier said.

He said the province was in a better position reduce the impact of the fourth wave as vaccines are available.

“In the next two weeks, we also want to target those who have not returned for the second dose of Pfizer, we need more people to come back for their second dose.

“We have eight million adults who are not vaccinated and this is cause for concern. The number of those vaccinated with a single dose are 4.5 million and 3.7 million of those are fully vaccinated. We want to persuade more people to take responsibility of their health by getting vaccinated,” Makhura said.

The Gauteng Premier’s advisory committee Chairperson Dr Mary Kawonga said there has been a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

“What we have seen is the virus spread from the initial clusters that were identified in the Tshwane district and it is now present in all districts in Tshwane.

“We have also noticed the risk of COVID-19 in communities has increased and there are a number of indicators that tell us this and one of them is the seven-day rolling average cases, which we have seen, a rapid increase,” Kawonga said.

The province has seen more than 20% per day increase in the seven-day rolling average this past week.

“We have also seen an increase in the proportion of COVID-19 positive cases, which is a strong indicator of the level of community transmission and that has gone above 10%.

“We have also seen an increase in the reproduction number to 2.3, which means that the number of people that each infected person can infect has gone up from about one to two people per person,” she said.

In addition, the province is seeing an increase in COVID-19 admissions but not to the extent of the new cases recorded.

Kawonga said early indications from trends in Gauteng data signal that the COVID-19 vaccines are doing what they were designed to do, which is to protect vaccinated people against hospitilisation and death.

“Analysis is ongoing but we are optimistic as hospitilisations are increasing at a much lower rate than cases and lower than the third wave. Early indications of the fourth wave show that hospitilisations may be smaller than the third wave,” she said.

The Omicron variant is still SARS-CoV-2 and it is transmitted in exactly the same way as previous SARS-CoV-2 strains – through contact between people and aerosol transmission.

“Therefore the same measures use for the previous waves and variants remain essential which include the adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccination to protect against severe disease.

“There is currently no evidence that states COVID-19 vaccines used in South Africa will not protect against severe disease with the Omicron variant.

“All those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine should get vaccinated as soon as possible for protection against hospitilisation and death during the resurgence,” she said.

Source: South African Government News Agency