GAUTENG is planning to undertake Covid-19 vaccination campaigns at schools in the wake of the new highly transmissible B.1.1.529 coronavirus variant and increasing infections in the province.
With the advent of matric dance events, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said increasing infections were raising concerns over pupils’ safety.
“We encourage all those who are eligible to use this opportunity, and vaccinate as part of the drive to manage and mitigate the impact of Covid-19. In collaboration with the Gauteng Department of Health, we will be administering a vaccination drive in schools and communities targeted at learners aged 12-17 years old. We call upon all eligible learners to grab this opportunity and take the jab,” Lesufi said in a statement.
The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) announced two months ago that children aged 12 and older were now eligible for the Pfizer jab.
The approval came after the launch of South Africa’s vaccine trial on children.
According to the Gauteng health department, a total of 6 838 663 Covid-19 jabs had been administered as of Friday.
At least 3 617 545 people in the province had been fully vaccinated, with most of them in the Johannesburg region.
“Indeed, the possibility of a fourth wave is becoming more and more inevitable. Therefore, the safety of our learners and employees is paramount as they complete this academic year. We plead with everyone in the education sector to observe all health protocols and vaccinate to ensure a safe and prosperous end to the year,” said Lesufi.
Twenty-two positive cases of the variant B.1.1.529 have been recorded in the country following genomic sequencing collaborations between the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and private laboratories. In addition, other NGS-SA laboratories are confirming more cases as sequencing results come out.
“It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa,” comments Prof Adrian Puren, NICD Acting Executive Director.
He adds that, “Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date.”
Detected cases and percent testing positive are both increasing quickly, particularly in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo. Dr Michelle Groome, Head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD says that provincial health authorities remain on high alert and are prioritising the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples.
She stressed that regardless of the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, the importance of non-pharmaceutical interventions remains unchanged and the public are urged to be responsible.
“This means that individuals should get vaccinated, wear masks, practice healthy hand hygiene, maintain social distancing, and gather in well ventilated spaces.”
* Inside Education