Experts concerned with slow vaccine uptake amid calls to make it mandatory

Government had initially set a 70% vaccination target for all adults by next month but that seems highly unlikely.

FILE: Vaccine recipients queue at Karl Bremer Hospital’s vaccination site in Cape Town on 17 May 2021. Picture: Kevin Brandt/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - With government's task team now considering whether to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, health experts are concerned about the officials' delayed response to deal with a slow vaccine uptake.

Government had initially set a 70% vaccination target for all adults by next month but that seems highly unlikely.

With the rise of COVID-19 infections and the discovery of the new Omicron variant - experts believe government should have acted sooner to make vaccines mandatory.

Salim Abdool Karim is an epidemiologist and member of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus.

He said vaccines should have been made mandatory a long time ago especially for certain groups like healthcare workers.

"We've got to use our vaccines more effectively. I feel we have been simply too slow in insisting on certain groups being vaccinated."

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While government has kept the country on alert level one, meaning large gatherings are still allowed, Karim said this was not a wise move.

He remains concerned about potential super spreader events at this time of the year.

WATCH: Prof Karim on Omicron variant: Closing borders has almost no benefit

Meanwhile, Public Health Professor Mosa Moshabela - who is also motivating for mandatory vaccines - agrees that tough decisions will need to be taken to protect South Africans.

"Everyone who does not want to get vaccinated will have to consistently provide a test to prove they are negative and these are going to costly, it's easier to vaccinate."

Health experts are also concerned about the long-term impact that patients with long COVID will pose on the already overburdened public healthcare system if the pandemic continues to ravage.