South Africa’s major political parties in rare unity to promote registration for COVID-19 vaccines amid 3rd wave threat

A South African health worker is inoculated with a dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town on February 17, 2021. /Gianluigi Guercia/VCG
A South African health worker is inoculated with a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town. /Gianluigi Guercia/VCG

Major political parties in South Africa on Sunday stood together and stopped attacking each other — a rare occurrence — at least in Western Cape Province, in order to push forward registration for COVID-19 vaccines, as the third coronavirus wave is approaching.

Provincial representatives from the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Western Cape’s governing party and the official opposition in the nation Democratic Alliance (DA), the third-largest political party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and other parties including Freedom Front Plus (FF+), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Good and Al Jama-Ah in a joint statement encouraged Western Cape residents aged 60 years and above to register for COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the start of the 2nd phase of the national vaccination program on May 17.

COVID-19 vaccines are “an extremely important defense” in the battle against the virus and offer “a real hope” of ending the pandemic, they said, while encouraging residents who still have concerns and unsure about the vaccine to seek out the facts from reliable sources.

They also committed to disseminating the latest vaccine registration information, assisting residents to register, sharing facts about vaccines to support people to make an informed decision and standing against queue jumping by those who are not yet eligible to receive inoculation.

The latest National Income Dynamics Study-Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (NIDS-CRAM), conducted by 30 social science researchers from five South African universities, suggested Western Cape may have the highest vaccine hesitancy among the nine provinces in South Africa, with 42 percent of its surveyed respondents were vaccine-hesitant, while the national average stood at 29 percent.

Side effects, efficacy and trust in vaccines were three leading reasons among the respondents across the country who said they were hesitant to receive a vaccine.

Data from May 3-9 showed an overall 46 percent increase in new cases in comparison to the previous week with the Northern Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo provinces topping the list, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said Thursday in a statement.

It also said there has been an increase in hospital admissions while COVID-19 related deaths increased by 18 percent in comparison to the previous week.

Although South Africa hasn’t met the threshold for a new wave nationally, the Free State province is currently experiencing a third wave at a provincial level and the Northern Cape, which never met the technical criterion for exiting the second wave, has experienced a significant resurgence in recent weeks, the institute said.

“The current trajectory is worrisome and should it continue its course, we will likely cross the threshold for a new wave in the coming weeks,” said its acting executive director Adrian Puren.

The third wave in Western Cape “must be happening” in the next few weeks, Premier of the Western Cape Alan Winde told Xinhua in an interview Tuesday after the Free State entered the new wave.

South Africa plans to vaccinate about 67 percent of the population by the end of this year with three phases to achieve herd immunity.

Following the first phase for healthcare workers only, the second phase will inoculate persons aged 60 years and above first, then other groups of people including essential workers, persons in congregate settings and persons over 18 years of age with co-morbidities.

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