With the new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 hitting the country, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called on interfaith leaders to encourage South Africans to vaccinate, saying this was still the best defence against the virus.
This is despite the fact experts are unsure if the current Covid vaccines will work against the new variant which has multiple mutations. Phaahla made the plea while addressing interfaith leaders as part of the South African National Aids Council’s (SANAC) extended outreach programme in Durban.
“We know that yesterday we announced that our scientists have found another change of the virus because it keeps changing. There is a new one which was confirmed by scientists yesterday, which although it’s still very early days, it shows that it may be spreading much quicker and even catching younger people.
“But what our scientists endorse is the fact that vaccination is still the best way of making sure that even this one can catch you if you are vaccinated you are less likely to be very sick and end up in hospital and end up in ICU,” Phaahla said. He said the tried and tested safety methods such as putting on face masks, keeping physical distance, managing the number of people in gatherings and making sure that people sanitise, were still the best ways of fighting against the virus.
“We know that, very critically, unlike with HIV where our scientists have tried many times and up to this stage have not be able to get the vaccine for HIV, but fortunately as far as Covid is concerned various vaccines have been developed and over and above protocols of protecting ourselves we also have the vaccines,” Phaahla said.
He called on faith leaders and civil society to assure people that the Covid-19 vaccines had been tested, were effective and save lives.
Since we rolled out the first vaccination in February this year, starting with the health workers, following up with educators and now into the general public we have seen the impact.
“When we had the first wave we lost a lot of health workers and when we had the second wave which was around this time last year we lost a lot of health workers all over the country, even educators.
“But once we started rolling out the vaccination in February when the third wave came very few health workers who had been vaccinated got sick and even those who had the virus many of them did not end up in hospital, very ended up in ICU and even worse very few unfortunately passed away,” Phaahla said.
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