While the number of Covid-19 daily infections have increased at an alarming rate over the past week, hospitals in the Limpopo and the Western Cape have yet to experience a significant increase in the number of hospital admissions. One reason for his could be vaccinations.
“Our data indicates that our hospitalisations have not significantly increased. Persons under investigation for Covid-19 currently make up 3% of all available acute general hospital capacity in both metro and rural regional hospital areas,” Mark van der Heever, spokesperson for the Western Cape health department, told City Press.
With South Africa experiencing a rate of infections not seen since the beginning of the pandemic and as the country heads into the fourth wave, with nearly a quarter of all Covid-19 tests being positive, Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba told City Press that it was still disappointing that young people in the province were keeping away from vaccination sites, citing “vaccine hesitancy” as the main culprit.
Young people still not getting vaccinated
“We are still facing challenges in terms of the number of people aged between 18 and 34 presenting themselves at vaccination sites, as we are nowhere near were we would like to be in terms of the number of young people we would like to have vaccinated at this stage,” Ramathuba said.
“Younger people are giving us a lot of problems, mainly because they are on social media spaces where sometimes they are privy to false or inaccurate information about the vaccine.”
The MEC said her department was hoping to see an increase in the number of people, more so the younger people, coming out to vaccination sites “this week”.
“As a province we thought that by now we would have vaccinated more than 70% of the population in the province, especially the younger population. And so far it is only with the population of the over 60-year-olds where we have surpassed our target, and we are getting there with the above 50-year-olds.”
Van der Heever shared this sentiment, and said that while “more than 50% of adults in the Western Cape had been vaccinated”, only “39% of the population in the 18-34 age group had been vaccinated”.
He said: “To date, 70.66% of the total population in the 60 years and older age group have been vaccinated; 61.51% in the 50 to 59 group; 53.27% aged 35 to 49 and, in addition, 72 920 of those aged 12–17 have also taken up their vaccination.”
Van der Heever and Ramathuba admitted that, while the presence of the Omicron variant had contributed to the increase in infections, their respective provinces had not seen a significant increase in hospital Covid-19 related admissions yet, ascribing this to the “effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing severe illness”.
As at December 6, the Western Cape had recorded 522 934 confirmed Covid-19 cases, and 20 252 deaths, making it the province with the second-highest numbers after Gauteng. Limpopo recorded 126 090 positive cases and 4 108 deaths.
Van der Heever said: “As with previous waves, the provinces with the highest population figures have always experienced more infections and deaths than those provinces with lower population figures. This is directly linked to community transmission. The more people in a province, the higher the infection rate and the higher the chance of deaths being recorded.”
Meanwhile, Ramathuba said that “the (Limpopo) province had not experienced a significant increment in the number of Covid-19 related admissions”
From Sunday, “We saw a total of 77 patients being admitted for Covid-19 across our 23 hospitals in the province. And these are not patients who were admitted in one day,” she explained.
Vaccine hesitancy concerns health departments
The MEC added that it was too soon to speculate about what would happen in “the next few weeks”.
“Watching from the previous waves, when the number of positive cases start to peak, yes, you will see the number of admissions also increase, but it is usually about two weeks after the new wave that we see more hospital admissions, and then later on, about a month later, we see an increase in the number of Covid-19 related deaths.”
Both the MEC and spokesperson said they had hoped for a higher vaccination uptake.
“The department can administer 40 000 vaccines per day, but currently on average, due to low uptake, only renders just more 20 000 per day,” Van Der Heever said.
Ramathuba said: “We would like to reach a target of at least 20 000 administered vaccines per day, because I know that we have the capacity to achieve that. Vaccine availability is not a problem.
“The problem is hesitancy from our people. When we started rolling out vaccines, we were administering about 30 000 per day but now we are down to about 16 000 per day, and that is a clear indication of the ongoing vaccine hesitancy among people.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala announced that the province had officially entered its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections after it recorded significant increases in daily infection rates as well as the number of people who require hospitalisation and ICU beds.