Covid-19: Make sure you are vaccinated by the time the fourth wave arrives - Salim Abdool Karim

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Professor Salim Abdool-Karim
Professor Salim Abdool-Karim
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  • Vaccines remain important going into the fourth wave, says Salim Abdool Karim.
  • A new documentary, which depicts scenes inside a Covid-19 hospital in Pretoria, is set to premier in October. 
  • Karim says the documentary highlights why people should adhere to protocols.

If people are to get infected during the inevitable Covid-19 fourth wave in the coming months, then they better be fully vaccinated, says epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim. 

Karim stressed that being fully vaccinated would put people in a better position during the imminent fourth wave, which is estimated to happen around November and December. 

Karim was speaking on Monday during a media briefing to announce the premiere date of a Covid-19 documentary filmed at a Pretoria Hospital. 

The documentary, Zero to Zero, is set to broadcast exclusively on DStv's M-Net channel at 20:30 on 4 October.

READ | SA film zooms in on frontline workers' racing against time to save lives of Covid patients

It films the staff of Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital - a non-profit hospital in Muckeneuk in Pretoria - in action as they attempt to save the lives of patients infected with Covid-19.

Karim said future waves would be driven by new variants, but how it would emerge and what it would look like were unknown.

The former chairperson of the government's Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 said the past 20 months has provided an idea of what the fourth wave might look like.

Karim said:

If you are going to get infected in the fourth wave, I really hope that you are vaccinated. Because if you are vaccinated, you are unlikely to need ICU care, unlikely to need any of the care that Professor Scholtz showed so vividly in the movie, because the vaccines prevent that.

Professor Leonie Scholtz, a radiologist and part-time filmmaker at the more than 100-year-old private hospital in Pretoria, filmed the documentary, along with two other people, for more than 15 months - unscripted.

The frontline worker said, after getting permission, all she did was switch on her camera and document the scenes at the hospital from the time it admitted its Covid-19 patient zero.

The visuals take viewers from emergency rooms to ICUs, where patients - young and old - are attached to machines, with health workers attempting to save their lives.

Karim said the film was a reminder of the importance of preventative measures and the value of vaccines. 

READ | Covid-19: Experts warn of complacency ahead of imminent fourth wave

"Vaccines have a very high efficacy in terms of preventing severe disease that requires ICU care and prevents deaths. Vaccines, no matter which you take, are incredibly efficacious in that regard. I think the way in which this movie captures what is otherwise a very brutal condition, that not only makes you suffer that you can't breathe, it makes you do all of that in isolation," he said. 

Karim encouraged everyone to take their jabs because future waves and variant behaviours were unknown.

He said: 

We don't know what its new advantages are going to be. We saw with the Delta variant, it's able to evade some of our immunity, it transmits faster. So, we don't know what this new variant is going to look like. But whatever it is, we know that our fundamentals remain our most effective weapons.

Apart from being vaccinated, non-pharmaceutical protocols were also important, Karim noted.  

"I know we are frustrated. I know we would like to go back to the way things were, but, unfortunately, the waves don't agree with us on that score and the waves are demanding that we use our prevention measures - if we are to control them or if we are to mitigate their full impact," he added.

Addressing the briefing, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the vaccination programme was progressing steadily throughout the country. 

He said:

We still have a long way to go because our desired target is to reach at least 28 million of 18 and above South Africans by middle of December, or, at the very latest, by the end of December. So, we are still short of at least 18 million new recipients of the vaccines.

He said the average daily vaccinations in the last week was around 250 000 doses, including the first and second doses of Pfizer as well as the single Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The department has now set a target of vaccinating up to 300 000 people a day.  

Phaahla said it was appreciated that people were getting their jabs, but there was still a long way to go. The government, though, was making the process as easy as possible, including accessibility. 

If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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