COVID-19: Another wave on the horizon for SA?

COVID-19: Another wave on the horizon in SA
Additional Covid-19 booster jab for at risk South Africans(Photo: Freepik)

Experts have warned South Africa could experience its 6th wave of COVID-19 by the end of September and are urging South Africans to continue getting vaccines and booster shots.

Professor Hannelie Meyer, Head of the South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences, said this forecast is based on patterns identified since the pandemic started in 2020.

Previous COVID-19 patterns in play

“You normally see a new wave after approximately three months. However, it’s likely to be mild if a new variant fails to emerge. Usually, when we see a surge in the number of infections, it is because of a new variant of the virus,” Meyer said.

She said the current predominant variants are sub-variants of Omicron, and they have not led to an overall increase in the number or severity of new infections. But these sub-variants are spreading more rapidly and are more transmissible.

“If we consider previous patterns, we might see a new wave towards the end of September, but in reality, only time will tell. What you can do in the meantime is to make sure that you are vaccinated. Not only will you protect yourself and your family, but also those around you. The risk of severe COVID-19 disease, hospitalisation and death is also reduced.”

Sinenhlanhla Jimoh, Senior Communications Manager at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said the current numbers don’t indicate a likely resurgence.  She said the results of monitoring wastewater back up this observation. 

‘It is important to protect yourself’

Meyer said that since new variants drove previous waves, there is an element of uncertainty. She warned that if vaccination rates remain low, the chances of more people experiencing severe disease are high.

“We must remember that there is a very high population immunity now because many people have already been exposed to the virus or have been vaccinated. But we must still remember that immunity wanes,” said Meyer.

Jimoh said almost half of the adult population (46%) had been fully vaccinated. When looking at those 50 years and older, the percentage rises to 60& and more. She said the government aims to reach far higher vaccine coverage in the presence of immunity to natural infections.  

Vaccine hesitancy is still an issue

“Vaccine hesitancy and refusal are complex and require various approaches to be addressed. Although all age groups should be targeted, it’s important to focus on those with comorbidities where the value of vaccines to reduce severe disease, hospitalisations, and death has been demonstrated,” said Jimoh.

 She said genetic mutations are continuously observed but do not necessarily translate into variants of concern. But again, urged South Africans to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Mask up if you feel the need

Meyer said South Africans must take responsibility for their health since COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared.

“When it comes to wearing face masks, it depends on an individual. You must decide for yourself whether you are at high risk of severe disease or not. Do I feel comfortable walking around without a mask? If not, then it is your responsibility to protect yourself. If you know you are immunocompromised or have a chronic condition, you should wear a mask. You need to take responsibility for your health,” Meyer concluded. – Health-e News


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