Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says while 70% of the population has come into contact with COVID-19 – and have some form of immunity – the best form of defense against the disease remains vaccination.
Phaahla said this when he tabled the department’s budget vote before a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“Whilst it is the time that over 70% of the population have had contact with the virus, and therefore we have some natural immunity, the truth is this immunity wares with time and it cannot be boosted. So, while the virus is amongst us, the best defense is vaccination,” he said.
Phaahla said from where government was compared to a year ago, it has made progress with its vaccination programme.
As of Monday, we have administered 35 182 million vaccine doses to just over 19 717 million adult individuals which is 49.5% of all adults.
“We have been allocated R2 billion for vaccines in the 2022/23 financial year,” he said.
Minister explains the need for health regulations
Phaahla said, meanwhile, that government derives no joy in implementing lockdown restrictions, and that they are done to solely protect citizens from the severe impact of COVID-19.
“We wish to assure all South Africans, that as government we get no joy in inconveniencing you from time to time with restrictions.
“We say sorry where we have wronged you but please be assured that all interventions were meant and are still meant for all of us to avoid the severe impact of COVID-19.
“We completely disagree with armchair critics who argue that we should drop all public health measures and just let the virus spread at will and only worry about whether hospitals are full or not,” he said.
The Minister said while the pandemic has derailed some of government’s programmes – as departments had to redirect all resources to aid in the fight against the pandemic – it has also had positive experiences and lessons during this period.
“We have learned to work as government from local to national, and bring in skills and expertise from our entities.
“We have learnt on how to work together with private sector, from securing of commodities such as [personal protective equipment] PPEs, diagnostics, therapeutics and even more securing and administering vaccines.
“We have learned how to work with our scientists to guide our intervention, not always easy because scientists themselves do not always agree as is the case in other aspects of life,” he said.