Experts back vaccination as best chance to protect others as COVID numbers grow

Health officials have been deployed across the country to encourage communities to be vaccinated amid rising COVID-19 infections.

A healthcare worker at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital prepares a COVID-19 vaccination on the first day of the vaccine rollout to frontline workers on 17 February 2021. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Health officials have been deployed across the country to encourage communities to be vaccinated amid rising COVID-19 infections.

This is part of government’s Vooma vaccination campaign.

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The drive will see more pop-up vaccine sites with officials urging the public to get immunised before the festive season.

Many hospitals overwhelmed by COVID admissions have reported that most patients did not get jabbed.

Despite these revelations, many people are still hesitant to get vaccinated, which is why the Vooma campaign is being used to drum up numbers and provide clarity for those with questions.

In just the last 24 hours, over 46,000 people in Gauteng got their jab, followed by the Western Cape's resident at over 22,000 jabs.

Vaccinations don’t require a booking and those with access to the internet can visit sacoronavirus.co.za to find their nearest site.

Government hopes to get at least 40% of the adult population vaccinated before the festive season.

Source: City of Cape Town

PREVENTING SEVERE ILLNESS

Meanwhile, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said those who were vaccinated could still get COVID-19 but being fully vaccinated would prevent them from getting severely ill.

Government had hoped to get 70% of the population vaccinated by January but with four weeks to go, just 37% of the eligible population has had the full dose.

Phahla said vaccination was the most reliable weapon against severe illnesses even though it was not a silver bullet.

The North West, meanwhile, is seeing an uptick in the number of people getting vaccinated, especially in the wake of the Omicron variant.

DELTA DOMINATES GLOBALLY

The Delta variant remains dominant and experts, governments and vaccine makers are urging people to take advantage of booster jabs where available.

Delta has proved able to evade vaccine defences against transmission better than the Alpha, Beta and Gamma COVID variants.

But jabs have remained highly effective at preventing severe illness from Delta, lowering the risk of overwhelming hospital resources.

With Delta still dominant in Europe, some countries are trying to accelerate their third jab campaigns.

Lab tests to measure Omicron's vulnerability to the vaccines in use today are under way, a process that should yield results in two to three weeks.

Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna each say they have begun work on a new version of their vaccine specifically targeting Omicron in case existing jabs don't work against it.

When Delta arrived on the scene, Pfizer developed a jab especially for the variant but never rolled it out.

"Labs ended up relying on the fact that their jabs protected against severe COVID – but it still allows the virus to circulate," said Bruno Canard, a coronavirus expert at French national research institute CNRS.

Pfizer has promised a new vaccine within 100 days but the roll-out will take far longer and won't be in place before spring, Canard said.

"In the meantime, current vaccines protect against serious forms of COVID from the Delta variant."