Parliament, Tuesday, 17 August 2021 – The Chairperson of the Select Committee on Health and Social Services, Ms Maurencia Gillion, commended the Department of Health’s work thus far to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee was briefed by the Department of Health on strategies to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. In his opening remarks, Deputy Minister of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said that in February this year, it was not certain if the government would have enough vaccines. “We were not ready to open many vaccination sites; we now have vaccine sites at shopping malls, pension pay points and drive-throughs. The challenge that the country is now facing is the vaccine hesitancy amongst South Africans.”

The committee was informed that the department aims to prevent as much severe Covid-19 as it can as quickly as possible, and to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating as many people as it can as quickly as it can. The government’s daily target is 300 000 and Dr Dhlomo said the country has vaccines, however recent statistics show that the number of people being vaccinated daily has decreased. More women are being vaccinated than men, with strong uptake among the 60+ age group. However, after a good start, the uptake in the 35 year-old+ age group has since decreased.

Also briefing the committee, the Deputy Director-General in the Department of Health Dr Nicholas Crisp said 9.3 million doses have been administered nationally, but confirmed that the programme has lost momentum. Members of the public need to be encouraged to be vaccinated, as vaccination is the most important mitigating intervention to defeat the virus, which mutates frequently, meaning that immunity from one variant may not be effective against the next variant.

Protecting the most vulnerable will guard against severe illness, hospitalisation and death. However, herd immunity will remain elusive as it requires the majority of the population to be vaccinated. Covid-19 is likely to be prevalent in the world for years to come, Dr Crisp said.

The committee expressed its concern about vaccine hesitancy and said more needs to be done to educate the public about the importance of vaccinating. Religious and traditional leaders should use their influence to encourage vaccination.

Committee Chairperson Ms Gillion noted that during the violent protests in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng in July it was reported that approximately 131 pharmacists were destroyed, 80% of them in KZN. This led into a situation in which many people were unable to access medication. She asked what the department is doing to ensure that these facilities start operating again. The committee also noted the rise in Covid-19 cases in KZN and wondered if this could be linked to the large gatherings that occurred during the unrest. The department replied that this could be the case.

Regarding the positive cases of Covid-19 reported amongst children, Dr Dhlomo said the scientific world says vaccines are safe for those age 18 and above. The department indicated that research into the safety of vaccines for children younger than 18 is underway.

In addition, the committee applauded the Provincial Department of Health in Limpopo for the success in its vaccination roll-out programme.


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