Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has assured MPs that the national Health Department will ramp up the vaccine roll-out programme after opposition parties slammed the government’s slow pace.
The parties were unhappy about so few people having been vaccinated despite promises over the past few months that it wanted to vaccinate 40 million people by the end of the year.
But the department yesterday told MPs that to date three million people had been vaccinated. This included health-care workers, teachers and those above the age of 60 years.
There were plans in the next few weeks to start vaccinating police officers.
Kubayi-Ngubane said they wanted to increase the number of people receiving Covid-19 vaccinations.
“The multi-faceted approach we are taking is what we are doing to ramp up our vaccine programme. What is important to us is to come back to you and say this is what we have been able to change,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.
Deputy Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said the speed of the vaccination programme would be determined by the availability of vaccines in the country.
He said this was important because the more people who were vaccinated the better. However, this would not mean that people must not adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions.
These remained an important element in fighting Covid-19.
The deputy director-general in the department, Anban Pillay, warned that the Delta variant was highly contagious.
“The Delta variant is more transmissible. More transmissions means more hospitalisation,” said Pillay.
“We know Delta is far more transmissible than Beta and Alpha. If you have a variant that is more transmissible, many more people get infected more easily. In terms of the transmission itself, this happens in a short space of time.”
He added that with the implementation of level 4 of the lockdown, announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, they wanted to reduce the infections but keep the economy going.
They also wanted to bring down the number of people who were admitted to the hospital.
The Delta variant had caused the government to impose tough restrictions, including banning the sale of alcohol, closing schools early and allowing restaurants to only sell takeaways.
Pillay said the issue of the approval of the Sputnik and Sinovac vaccines was still before the SA Health Products Regulatory Council (Sahpra).
Sahpra has come under fire from the EFF, which marched on its offices in Pretoria to demand that these vaccines be approved.
It said the delay was due to a conflict of interest.
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