By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Government is making every effort to reach population immunity and is investigating immunising children with the remaining vaccine stock once most adults are covered.
"Just in the same way as when we were convinced that we have enough capacity and stock to cover the above 35.
"Therefore, when that stage arrives, we will definitely look at science and our capacity. Then, at that stage, we should be able to move towards the lower ages below 18, as some of the vaccines have already been approved for those who are under 18," said health minister, Dr Joe Phaahla on Tuesday.
Last week, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported an uptick in respiratory and Covid-19 hospital admissions in the Free State and Western Cape and children younger than 20 years.
Addressing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the minister said, while other nations are already inoculating children as young as 12 years-old, South Africa is currently prioritising the adult population.
"So, the question is whether at some stage, even if we’re not fully opening up for the below 18 (year-olds), whether children with comorbidities (should be vaccinated). We’re keeping that on the radar screen," he said.
Phaahla explained that this could mean that the children with comorbidities come forward with clinical records for his department to investigate.
"At this stage, because of the hierarchy of risk, we’re still focusing on the adult population," he stressed.
He said the country has sufficient capacity and life-saving shots for the country’s adult population.
"Generally, stock levels is not a challenge to us," he added.
Briefing the NCOP on the Covid-19 vaccination programme, he said the government continues to focus on the work-based vaccination plan while working with major chain pharmacies such as Dischem and Clicks that have come on board to distribute vaccines.
In addition to the health facilities, the minister said the government has been going into communities, workplaces including mines and farms to ensure that the jabs reach the far corners of the country.
"In the medium to long term, what we’re looking forward to is to be able to achieve what is called population immunity, so that the vast majority of the South African population, especially those who are 18 and above can be saved and be able to be economically active," he explained.
Government is aiming to vaccinate at least 70% of the 40 million adults by December. The country has now distributed 12,289,478 vaccines, translating to 9,252,975 people who have received their vaccination.
Meanwhile the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD),reports 7,086 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2,777,659. This increase represents a 14.4% positivity rate.
The majority of new cases today are from KwaZulu-Natal (25%), followed by Eastern Cape (22%). Western Cape accounted for 17%; Free State accounted for 10%; Gauteng Province accounted for 8%; Northern Cape accounted for 7%; Mpumalanga accounted for 4%; North West accounted for 3%; and Limpopo Province accounted for 2% of today’s new cases.
NICD said a further 431 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 82,261 to date with 16,475,179 tests have been conducted in both public and private sectors.