South Africa considers mandatory vaccination because Omicron drives a surge in infections

South Africa is considering mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 in order to gain access to public services and businesses as it seeks to increase the injection rate before the fourth wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant.

Scientists say that the latest surge in infections in Africa’s most industrialized economies is faster than previous waves, which makes vaccination even more important.

As of this week, the 7-day average daily number of cases has risen to more than 4,800, compared with only a few hundred cases in the middle of last month. Scientists said on Friday In the briefing of the Ministry of Health.

In this African country hardest hit by the pandemic, about a quarter of the population has been vaccinated, and the new variant was discovered in late November. This plan was hampered by a late start, early supply shortages, recent delivery issues, and a lack of communication to allay safety concerns.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was unwilling to impose a strict lockdown, so there was a debate on the introduction of vaccine authorization.

“We realize that taking such measures is a difficult and complex issue, but if we do not take this issue seriously and as a matter of urgency, we will continue to be vulnerable to new variants and will continue to suffer a new wave of infections,” He said in a televised speech at the end of last month. Any plan will appear after consultation with labor and enterprises.

The sharp increase in the number of infections in Gauteng, South Africa’s economic and tourist center, suggests that Omicron may be more contagious, while First detailed study Entering a highly mutated strain indicates that it is more likely to cause reinfection than previous variants.

But the number of hospitalizations has always been dominated by people who have not been vaccinated, which shows that the vaccine will still prevent serious diseases caused by the new variant.

However, at the current rate, by the end of 2021, about 4 million South Africans over the age of 50 may still have not been vaccinated, and the fourth wave may reach the most intense by then.

The country has recorded nearly 3 million Covid cases.After analysis South African Medical Research Council It shows that since May 2020, the death toll of more than 273,000 people in South Africa has exceeded the normal level, far exceeding the official death toll of about 90,000 people.

After repeated blockades within the previous wave of economies, companies in particular called for more targeted methods.

“We need to quickly switch to allowing only vaccinated people to ride buses, taxis, and airplanes, or eat in indoor places such as restaurants and bistros,” said Martin Kingston, the chairman of South Africa’s business, after discovering the Omicron variant, in a pandemic Institutions established in said.

With the unemployment rate approaching 50% in the third quarter, employment-based tasks are difficult to perform. “On paper [mandates] It sounds great, but in fact they may be difficult to implement,” said Russell Lensburg, director of the South African Rural Health Advocacy Project.

Discovery, the country’s largest medical plan, said this week that almost all 10,000 employees have been vaccinated, up from about one-fifth of what was announced in September when a mandatory measure will take effect in 2022. Other insurance companies have taken similar measures, and elite universities are also introducing tasks to students.

Cosato, a political ally of the largest trade union federation and the ruling African National Congress, said it favors such measures, rather than blockades that repeatedly undermine employment. It said: “In the future, any restrictions must be imposed on those who have not been vaccinated.”

However, strong public sector unions remain reluctant. The South African Civil Service Association-representing nurses, teachers and police officers-said it encourages members to get vaccinated, but added that “many people are still worried about the effectiveness of the vaccine, and compulsory vaccination will increase this anxiety.”

According to the South African Ministry of Health’s “Social Listening” report, concerns about side effects and the lack of clear information on the subject have exacerbated hesitation.

Other obstacles include the high cost of transportation to the vaccination site, and the problem of “depleted supply” of doses, especially in local mobile units or pop-up locations, even though there is now enough vaccine at the national level.

This week, the government doubled the vaccination voucher for people over the age of 50 who have not received the first dose of vaccine to 200 rand ($12.50) as compensation for transportation expenses.

Lensburg said: “We should be in the mall from the beginning,” rather than relying on clinics to provide vaccination points in the early stages of launch. “Teachers have to leave school for vaccinations, not health workers to go to school.”

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