South Africa Urges Vaccine Use as Omicron Spreads



Coronavirus cases have risen rising dramatically in South Africa since the discovery of the omicron variant. Government and other entities are scrambling to vaccinate more people to avoid severe cases.

Vaccines can’t guarantee you won’t be infected by the coronavirus, but they can save your life. That was the message South Africa’s health minister Joe Phaahla delivered today as the country enters its fourth wave.

More than 11,000 people tested positive on Thursday alone — a massive spike from the roughly 330 daily cases being detected two weeks ago.

Phaahla says now is not the time to be hesitant toward vaccines.

“No one amongst our scientists ever said to us that the vaccines will prevent us from being infected with the virus. But that what they have always said, and which were seeing as this wave’s getting into operation, that 80 to 90% when you are vaccinated, you'll get mild illness.”

While vaccines are widely available, less than half the adult population has been inoculated.

The omicron variant that was discovered by South African scientists last month is driving the new wave of infections.

What is clear is that vaccinated people are making up just 2% of hospitalizations.

“There's definitely early evidence that this virus, or this variant, is more transmissible and also early evidence that there is some degree of immune escape. Vaccination will prevent against the severe disease, but you may still get infections, even though you've been vaccinated,” said Dr. Michelle Groome, South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

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