The first and the most powerful tool we have to fight Covid-19 is vaccination, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday night.
“We have a powerful tool called vaccination,” he said addressing to the nation on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The president said that since the first Covid-19 vaccines became available late last year, the country has seen how vaccines have dramatically reduced severe illness, hospitalisation and death in South Africa and across the world.
Vaccines do work and that they were saving lives, Ramaphosa said.
“Since we launched our public vaccination programme in May 2021, over 25 million vaccine doses have been administered in South Africa,” he said.
Ramaphosa lauded this as a remarkable achievement.
The president reminded the nation that this is by far the most extensive health intervention undertaken in this country in such a short period of time.
“Forty-one percent of the adult population have received at least one vaccine dose, and 35.6 per cent of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Significantly, 57 percent of people 60 years old and above are fully vaccinated, and 53 percent of people aged between 50 and 60 are fully vaccinated.”
The president said that while this is welcome progress, he added that it is not enough to enable us to reduce infections, prevent illness and death and restore our economy.
He reminded the nation that vaccination against Covid-19 is free and urgently pleaded with South Africans who have not been vaccinated to go to their nearest vaccination station without delay.
“If there is someone in your family or among your friends who is not vaccinated, I call on you to encourage them to get vaccinated. Vaccination is by far the most important way to protect yourself and those around you against the Omicron variant, to reduce the impact of the fourth wave and to help restore the social freedoms we all yearn for.”
The president reminded South Africans that vaccination is also vital to the return of our economy to full operation, to the resumption of travel and to the recovery of vulnerable sectors like tourism and hospitality.
Ramaphosa said the development of the vaccines that we currently have against Covid-19 has been made possible thanks to the millions of ordinary people who have volunteered to participate in these trials to advance scientific knowledge for the benefit of humanity.
He said that these are the people who have proven that vaccines are safe and effective.
Ramaphosa reminded South Africans that we need to be thinking about the people who have been courageous when we consider getting vaccinated.
“By getting vaccinated, we are not only protecting ourselves, but we are also reducing the pressure on our health care system and our health care workers and reducing the risks faced by our healthcare workers.”
Furthermore, he added that South Africa, like a number of other countries, is looking at booster vaccines for people who are at greatest risk and for whom a booster may be beneficial.
The president said health care workers in the Sisonke trial, many of whom were vaccinated more than six months ago, are being offered Johnson & Johnson booster doses.
Additionally, Pfizer has filed an application to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority for a third dose to be administered after the two dose primary series regimen,
Ramaphosa added that the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines has already indicated that it will recommend a staged introduction of boosters commencing with the older population.
Other people with immunodeficiency, such as those on cancer treatment, renal dialysis and on steroids treatment for auto-immune diseases, are allowed booster doses on recommendation of their doctors.
“As individuals, as companies and as government, we have a responsibility to ensure that all people in this country can work, travel and socialise safely. We have therefore been undertaking engagements with social partners and other stakeholders on introducing measures that make vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments.”
According to the president, this includes discussions that have been taking place at NEDLAC between government, labour, business and the community constituency, where there is broad agreement on the need for such measures.
Government has set up a task team that will undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations.
The task team will report to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on vaccination chaired by the Deputy President, which will make recommendations to cabinet on a fair and sustainable approach to vaccine mandates.
“We realise that the introduction of such measures is a difficult and complex issue, but if we do not address this seriously and as a matter of urgency, we will continue to be vulnerable to new variants and will continue to suffer new waves of infection.”
South Africa, like a number of other countries, is looking at booster vaccines for people who are at greatest risk and for whom a booster may be beneficial.”
We have been undertaking engagements with social partners on introducing measures that can make vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments.
The president added that over the next few days and weeks, as more data becomes available, we will have a better understanding of:
Whether Omicron is transmitted more easily between people,whether it increases the risk of reinfection,whether the variant causes more severe disease, and how effective the current vaccines are against the variant Omicron.
Furthermore, the identification of Omicron coincides with a sudden rise in Covid-19 infections.
"Vaccination is by far the most important way to protect yourself and those around you against the army crown variant to reduce the impact of the fourth wave and to help restore the social freedoms we all yearn for. Vaccination is vital to the return of our economy to full operation and the resumption of travel into the recovery of vulnerable sectors such as tourism and hospitality," said Ramaphosa.
This was originally published on IOL.