Tuesday, 31 August 2021
Cape Town: Government is making every effort to reach population immunity and is investigating immunising children with the remaining vaccine stock once most adults are covered.
“Just in the same way as when we were convinced that we have enough capacity and stock to cover the above 35. Therefore, when that stage arrives, we will definitely look at science and our capacity. Then, at that stage, we should be able to move towards the lower ages below 18, as some of the vaccines have already been approved for those who are under 18,” said Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla on Tuesday.
Last week, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported an uptick in respiratory and COVID-19 hospital admissions in the Free State and Western Cape and children younger than 20 years.
Addressing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the Minister said, while other nations are already inoculating children as young as 12 years-old, South Africa is currently prioritising the adult population.
“So, the question is whether at some stage, even if we’re not fully opening up for the below 18 [year-olds], whether children with comorbidities [should be vaccinated]. We’re keeping that on the radar screen,” he said.
Phaahla explained that this could mean that the children with comorbidities come forward with clinical records for his department to investigate.
“At this stage, because of the hierarchy of risk, we’re still focusing on the adult population,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, he said the country has sufficient capacity and life-saving shots for the country’s adult population.
“Generally, stock levels is not a challenge to us,” he added.
Briefing the NCOP on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, he said government continues to focus on the work-based vaccination plan while working with major chain pharmacies such as Dischem and Clicks that have come on board to distribute vaccines.
In addition to the health facilities, the Minister said government has been going into communities, workplaces including mines and farms to ensure that the jabs reach the far corners of the country.
“In the medium to long term, what we’re looking forward to is to be able to achieve what is called population immunity, so that the vast majority of the South African population, especially those who are 18 and above can be saved and be able to be economically active,” he explained.
Government is aiming to vaccinate at least 70% of the 40 million adults by December.
The country has now distributed 12 289 478 vaccines, translating to 9 252 975 people who have received their vaccination.
According to Phaahla, this means there are another 30 million adults that still need to be jabbed.
“So, we still have a long way. But, we are hoping that at least by December, it will be covered minimum of 70% of this adult population that will give us very good coverage,” he said, adding that government is due to receive large stock of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine vials very soon.