Lesson for SA: Make it easy for everyone to get vaccinated, says Dr Fauci

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  • Vaccine sceptics should look at the data detailing the devastating impact of Covid-19, that has so far claimed 600 000 lives in the US, says US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci.
  • Fauci was speaking to Bhekisisa Health editor-in-chief Mia Malan on news channel Newzroom Afrika.
  • He said the first lesson for South Africa and Africa was to make it easy for everyone to get vaccinated.

Make it easy for everyone to get vaccinated.

This is the lesson that US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci says South Africa and Africa should follow in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is amid calls for the health department to open up vaccination to the 18-34 group before 1 September.

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Fauci was speaking to Bhekisisa Health editor-in-chief Mia Malan on news channel Newzroom Afrika on Sunday.

"In [the] US, we've had about 100 million refusing to get the vaccine. Their reason being accessibility to vaccination, some just refuse to get it while some are on the fence. So you make it easy for them... we got mobile vaccination sites... increasing the access," he said during the televised interview.

"This is lesson one of the lesson for Africa, South Africa and Southern Africa is make it easy for everyone to get vaccinated."

Fauci's comments come amid criticism aimed at wealthy nations, which have been accused of hoarding vaccines to the detriment of poorer countries. Less than 2% of Africans have been fully vaccinated.

He said a global effort on the part of rich countries, and through the WHO's Covax programme would ultimately build capacity where there was none. Helping other countries make their own vaccine, especially in Africa, would go a long way to achieving this.

The US, compared to South Africa, has had more vaccines to buy and fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fauci said at least 62% of the adult population in the US had been vaccinated, compared to only one in 10 people in South Africa. Government is also trying to convince vaccine sceptics, especially men, to get the jab.

Fauci says sceptics should be shown the data detailing the devastating impact of the virus.

"For those who say vaccines do not work, give them the data. In the US, 99% of deaths are among unvaccinated people. The most important reason to get vaccinated is not that you don't have to wear a mask, but to protect your life. It is the 600 000 deaths we've had in the US that should convince people to get vaccinated."

In the state of New York, government requested that those who do not want to get vaccinated get tested weekly. Many found it cumbersome to have to test for Covid-19 and many opted to get the vaccine, said Fauci.

On achieving herd immunity, Fauci said it was achievable through vaccinating as many people as fast as possible.

"You would want to vaccinate 100% of the population, but that is likely not possible. But if you get an overwhelming majority, you will reach it. What we do not know is the threshold for herd immunity... is it 70 or 90%? We do not know. It makes it difficult to reach herd immunity if you transmit the virus while vaccinated."

He said with the highly transmissible delta variant, the US have requested people to wear masks at indoor venues. 

"It is in our hands to make sure life will be the same again. We have to act, and act quickly by vaccinating populations as quickly as possible. We do not know how far we are from another pandemic...but we need to build better capacity, better communication, collaborate and build fundamental science. We were lucky because of investment in scientific research, we need to do that more and keep building medical science research," said Fauci.

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