Western Cape Health Minister Nomafrench Mbombo says they can only wait on a way forward following the recent developments regarding the Astrazeneca vaccine. Mbombo met with traditional health practitioners as part of the province vaccine rollout campaign.
On Sunday night Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that the rollout has been halted temporarily.
The initial vaccine rollout to health professionals was expected to kick off next week in the Western Cape, however, the Minister was forced to apply breaks. Data has shown the vaccine obtained from India has minimal protection against the country’s most dominant coronavirus variant.
Last week’s delivery also expires in April. The country now awaits further direction as scientists wrap their heads around the problem.
Mbombo says the vaccination process among health care workers would’ve been completed in March.
“In terms of the expiry, I don’t think that it’s a big issue in regard to if the program will still be the same. The plan would have actually be completed because if you start on the 15th of February, for example, in our case within a month you would have provided a second dose for those people. So it would’ve been Feb and March. I think we would have finished those. But now the issue is about the new changes that for now, we don’t know what we going to do with those vaccines. So the researchers and scientists must give us guidelines in regard to that space.”
Prior to Sunday night’s announcement Traditional Health Practitioners in the Western Cape would’ve been part of phase one of the vaccine rollout. Chairperson of the Western Cape Inyangi Forum Monwabisi Yamani says they require training and proper Personal Protective Equipment to assist health professionals.
“It gives us the caution. We must not treat the people without having the prevention. We are in the danger, you know, at some stage we don’t know the people how they affected or how they are. We just treat through traditional medicine. If then we can work for hand in glove with the DOH, it will be much better, you know.”
More than 130 000 health care professionals will need to be vaccinated in the Western Cape. To date, more than 10 600 people have died in the province due to COVID-19 complications.
Minister Zweli Mkhize gives an important update on COVID-19 vaccines:
AstraZeneca vaccine on hold
Co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, Professor Salim Abdool-Karim, has detailed reasons behind the temporary halt in the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Karim says the move is due to uncertainty over how effective current vaccines would be against the stronger coronavirus variant.
“We know that they work well against the pre-existing variants … [but] what about the new variant? We need more antibodies in order to be able to kill the variant. AstraZeneca and Novavax trials in SA have shown that the clinical efficacy is diminished substantially.”
“But we don’t really know the answer on severe disease. So we need that information on hospitalisation and we can’t make decisions without that. So, the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout needs to be put on temporary hold,” explains Karim.
The government is now considering other vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.
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