Sahpra warns that only mass vaccination uptake can help thwart worse variants
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Cape Town - The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has warned that as long as community transmissions of the Covid-19 virus continue, there is a risk of more and possibly worse variants emerging and the best way to prevent this, is for a massive increase in vaccine coverage.
The warning was given during the Western Cape’s regular digital news conference to update citizens on the health platform and vaccination programme across the province at which Sahpra’s chairperson Professor Helen Rees and Sahpra chief executive Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela were special guests.
Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo hosted the digicon as Premier Alan Winde is attending the three-day Cabinet lekgotla that began on Tuesday. The lekgotla is being attended by the president, his deputy, ministers, premiers and other leaders.
Answering a question about the new Covid-19 variant C.1.2, which has been detected across South Africa as well as in eight countries around the world, Prof Rees said Sahpra was watching it closely.
“It was first detected in May and it represents 2% of the current testing. People are concerned because it has similar characteristics as that of the Beta variant which is more transmissible,
But we will continue to get variants as long as the virus continues being transmitted in communities. We worry that this sort of transmission could be better in evading our immune systems, in resisting our immune response and that is why we really need to get vaccinations up to such a level that it makes it harder to transmit the virus,” said Rees.
With regard to sharing the messages about Sahpra’s work, particularly around vaccines in South African languages other than English, Dr Semete-Makokotlela said this was something they were paying attention to in an effort to spread information to more people across the country.
“I fully agree that Sahpra must engage more and share its messages in indigenous languages.”
She said Sahpra was monitoring vaccines worldwide as well as in South Africa and working closely with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the Medical Research Council and academics on the effectiveness of vaccines.
MEC Mbombo said that while the decline in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths in the province continued, the Western Cape was not out of the woods yet, as it was technically still in the third wave even though no longer at the peak.
“We are not going to be safe until at least 70% of the population has received its second dose of the vaccine,” said Mbombo.
Giving a provincial overview of the situation, health operations chief Dr Saadiq Kariem, said there was a 94% probability that the Western Cape would exit the third wave on September 27, as predicted by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC).
Kariem said 40.2% of all people in the province aged over 18, or 1.9 million people, had now received their full Covid-19 vaccinations.