Prof Shabir Madhi

News that children aged 12 to 17 can get vaccinated with one dose of Pfizer in SA from October 20 has been welcomed by top Wits University vaccinologist Prof Shabir Madhi, but he warns that this should in no way become the focus.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by Healthy Living Consulting on Friday morning, just hours after the department of health announced the vaccine rollout for the those 12 to 17, Madhi said: “I will encourage my own children to get vaccinated, but for the country as a whole, I am ambivalent about kids getting vaccinated. This is not going to help much when this age cohort gets vaccinated. We still need to put our efforts into getting the right groups vaccinated, and that is those above 50 years of age, or those who are 35 years and older who have underlying medical conditions.”

He added: “If we now try to just expand without getting to that 90% mark for those above 50, it is not going to assist the country going forward unless we couple it [vaccination of 12 to 17 year cohort] with the focus on the group above 50.”

This drive to vaccinate as many as possible in the more vulnerable age cohorts is also the focus of the Western Cape government, which announced on Friday that it would take walk-ins even without registration beforehand.

Said premier Alan Winde: “There are still many residents who have decided to get vaccinated but haven’t yet been able to find the time to go to one of our vaccination sites. I would like to encourage you to go as soon as you can. It really has never been quicker, or easier. You will likely be done in 30 minutes at many sites, including the 15 minutes’ observation time.”

He added: “You also do not need to pre-register. You simply need to walk in whenever you can and we will help register you at the site.”

In reviewing the Western Cape’s response to the third wave, the provincial department of health found that among those who were 50 years and older, the risk of death was 7.5 times higher than those in younger groups.

A fully vaccinated person is 4.3 times less likely to die than an unvaccinated person, the data suggested, while an analysis of deaths between August 21 and September 4, around the time of the peak of the third wave in the province, showed that almost 97% of those who died in the 50+ age bracket were not fully vaccinated.

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