JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Faced with slowing numbers of people getting COVID-19 vaccinations, South Africa has opened eligibility to all adults to step up the volume of inoculations as it battles a surge in the disease driven by the delta variant.
The country on Friday started offering shots to everyone aged 18 and older as the volume of shots given per day has stalled even though vaccines are now more widely available.
Less than 200,000 jabs are being given per day, down from 250,000 earlier this month and significantly lower than the target of 300,000 that the government had hoped to achieve by this time.
To boost the flagging numbers health officials decided to offer jabs to the younger adults immediately, rather than waiting until September as had been planned earlier.
The vaccination drive comes as the country is battling a resurgence of COVID-19.
In the last 24 hours, South Africa has recorded more than 13,000 new COVID-19 infections, including 317 deaths. Nearly 80,000 people in South Africa have died from the disease in the pandemic, according to official figures, but the actual number of deaths from COVID-19 is estimated to be nearly three times that amount, according to statistics showing the country’s average death rates.
South Africa has by far the largest burden of COVID-19 in Africa. Its 2.6 million confirmed cases of the disease is about 35% of the 7.4 million reported by all Africa’s 54 countries, even though South Africa’s 60 million people make up just 4.6% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
South Africa has so far vaccinated more than 10 million people, of which more than 4.6 million are fully vaccinated, either by the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech. It aims to inoculate 40 million people by February 2022.
After being hindered by a shortage of vaccines, South Africa now has an adequate supply, mostly from doses it has purchased itself and helped by a donation by the U.S. of nearly 6 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses.
Several vaccination sites have been inviting people to come and get vaccinated as many have recently experienced low volumes despite having enough vaccines.
Pop-up vaccination sites have also been opened to take the jabs to popular gathering spots.
While the government has partly attributed the reluctance to vaccinate on misinformation about vaccines, a new study has indicated that vaccine acceptance among South Africans has increased.
According to the study, conducted by the University of Johannesburg and the Human Science Research Council between June and July this year, 72% of adults accept that vaccines are good to get.
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