The impetus for vaccine uptake in South Africa, whilst on the uptick this week, has been slowly dwindling over the last few months. With summer upon us and people moving back to pre-pandemic habits, we have noticed a steady decline in visitors to our vaccination centres across the country. With the fourth wave and the new Omicron variant upon us, coupled with the increased movement and congregation of people over the festive season, we should ideally be busier than ever at our vaccine centres countrywide.

The vaccinated individuals in South Africa are not enough to stop the fourth wave from proceeding. Our current vaccination rate levels are just far too low to provide the immunity we require. Furthermore, if we don’t see a significant increase in vaccine uptake, the slow vaccination rates will continue to challenge us through new variants and waves of infection.

Both Government and business in South Africa have played a significant role in driving awareness and access to COVID-19 vaccines. At Momentum Health Solutions, we are highly aware of the impact that the pandemic has wrought. We have tried to assist where possible, by developing new solutions for clients, adapting our current offerings, and providing services like Hello Doctor for free. 

Don’t underestimate Omicron

Although we have seen increased infection rates in fully vaccinated individuals from the Omicron variant, it is critical to note that vaccines are still effective at protecting against severe illness and death. We are seeing that vaccinated individuals experience far milder symptoms, whilst unvaccinated individuals are once again being hospitalised. 

This is the crux of the matter. Increased hospitalisation can occur even if the Omicron variant is less virulent but more transmissible. Ultimately, more cases could lead to more complications. Hospital occupation levels are a function of viral transmissibility, virulence, and the immune-escape characteristics of the virus. 

Do the right thing

Human behaviour is also a key driver in increased hospitalisation. With the holiday season upon us, it is now more important than ever to do the right thing:

  • Get vaccinated, and if you qualify for a booster shot, get it as soon as you can 
  • Wear masks 
  • Practise healthy hand hygiene
  • Maintain physical distancing 
  • Gather in well-ventilated spaces, avoid indoor gatherings 

It’s each of our responsibility to both educate and encourage others and participate in the vaccine drive. School closures and holidays are an opportunity for us to contain cluster outbreaks. If each South African complies with the preventative measures, we will have a greater collective impact in both limiting the spread of the Omicron variant and building our defences against future variants. – Health-e News

*By Damian McHugh, Executive, Momentum Health Solutions