SA’s vaccination drive still aimed at adults only, no children yet, says Phaahla

Joe Phaahla. PHOTO: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the priority of government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is to inoculate more adults who are 18 years and older, and not children as seen in other countries.

Briefing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday morning during a virtual sitting, Phaahla said the vaccines currently available in the country were approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) for emergency use and not for children as yet.

“Many of the vaccines in their approval for usage from regulators, including Sahpra, has been on an emergency usage basis for the adult population 18 years and older.

“I know that in other countries they have already started going for between 12 and 18, but we are focused on the adult population as a priority,” Phaahla said.

South Africa’s vaccine rollout programme first began by targeting healthcare workers and other essential workers earlier this year. The rollout then moved to an an age-based vaccine eligibility basis, targeting citizens 35 and older.

Two weeks ago, government also approved the registration and vaccination of everyone over 18 years due to the availability of vaccines in the country.

Work-based vaccinations

Phaahla said government was still continuing with work-based vaccinations.

“This is very useful because it is good for the economy and we also make use of facilities which are already there in various companies,” he said.

Aside from achieving population immunity, the minister said the vaccination drive was aimed at reducing severe illness from Covid-19 resulting in increased hospitalisations and deaths.

“The strategy was to vaccinate all persons over the age of 60 and then sequentially move down the ages based on the transmission of the virus and looking at age groups in terms of vulnerability,” Phaahla said.

“What we are looking forward to in the long term is to be able to achieve population immunity so that the vast majority of the South African population, especially adults, can be safe and be able to be economically active.”

As of Monday, more than 12 million (12,289,478) people had received either one or two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with 5,818,291 people fully vaccinated.

The Citizen/Thapelo Lekabe