Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla says a team of senior government officials is ready to make recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
Addressing a virtual media briefing on government efforts in the fight against Covid-19, Phaahla on Friday said the issue of vaccination mandates remains a difficult topic.
“A team of senior government officials has been leading consultations with various stakeholders, including NEDLAC, and they should be ready to report at the next NCCC with recommendations.
“While there are different views on the matter, the undisputed fact is that the more people are vaccinated, the more we can open many economic and social activities safely.”
The Minister said during the State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa said government intends to do away with the state of disaster as a tool to manage the pandemic.
He said his department and other departments were given the task of coming up with other instruments that can be used to provide whatever safety measures are still required to limit the spread and impact of the pandemic.
“The NDOH [National Department of Health] has been hard at work revising its regulations to control notifiable infectious diseases and is ready to present at the next NCCC meeting.”
Phaahla said he hopes the reviewed health regulations and other recommendations from other departments will assist in a guided reopening of various economic and social activities, especially in the leisure and tourism areas, with less risk of super spreaders.
“The proposals will include amendments to travel requirements, which could make it easier and cheaper to travel safely. Details will only be available after discussion at the NCCC.
“We want to make a clarion call again to all South Africans that Covid-19 can be defeated if we all work together to protect ourselves and those around us with vaccination.”
Phaahla said vaccination continues to move steadily but still not at the desired pace.
After remaining at between 60,000 – 70,000 doses per day on weekdays over most of January and February, there has been an uptick over the last seven days to over 100 000 doses over the last two days. This after a steady rise.
“As of yesterday evening, 31,879,000 doses of vaccines had been administered to 19.08 million adult individuals, constituting 47.95% coverage of adults, with at least one jab (56.5% coverage for women and 43.5% coverage for men). Individual adults fully vaccinated are 17 million, at 43% coverage,” the Minister stated.
Phaahla said South Africa should be able to pass the 48% coverage over the next few days, which is still a far cry from the 70% coverage required for population immunity.
“The 60+ cohort remain our best performers at 68%, while the 50 – 59 age group stand at 64%, with the over 50s at an overall 60% full vaccination.”
The Free State is still the leading province at 57.2% coverage. In terms of absolute numbers, Gauteng is leading by far with 8.9m doses administered to just over five million people. However, coverage is at 45% due to the big population.
“Our biggest drawback is the 18 – 34 years age cohort, with 34% coverage and 29.3% full vaccination. We need at least another five million of this cohort to get to 60% coverage,” Phaahla said.
The Minister hopes that the initiative by young people to drive the vaccination campaign of their peers, which was launched two weeks ago, will bear fruit.
Meanwhile, the total doses administered to the 12 – 17 cohort currently stands just over 1.65 million.
Timeframes for booster shots
The timeframes for second doses of Pfizer and boosters of both Pfizer and J&J have been narrowed due to available capacity and the need to protect those who want to be protected.
Acting Director-General of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, emphasised that Covid-19 is not yet over, as there are still people dying from the virus.