As part of efforts to improve coverage of existing vaccines, the Department of Health is set to introduce new vaccines to be included in the routine expanded program on immunisation at a cost of R3.5 billion.
Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, made the announcement during a media briefing following a meeting with Health MECs held in Centurion on Thursday.
Phaahla noted that South Africa continues to experience outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, despite a strong childhood vaccination programme.
He said there is an ongoing need to improve coverage of existing vaccines and add new vaccines to the expanded program on immunisation schedule.
The Minister said the department is introducing a better packaged/derived vaccine that will prevent Whooping Cough, Tetanus and Diphtheria and reduce the chances of these conditions resurfacing within the communities.
“We are also introducing a combination vaccine of measles and rubella that will protect young girls, particularly during pregnancy which may lead to birth defects,” Phaahla said.
He said all these changes, recommended by the Ministerial-appointed National Advisory Group on Immunisation (NAGI), will be implemented with effect from January 2024.
Expansion of online birth registrations rollout
The Minister also announced that the Department of Home Affairs has made budget provision for the set-up and operational costs for the expansion of Online Registration System by an additional 91 health facilities during 2023/24 financial year.
This forms part of collaborative efforts between the Departments of Health and Home Affairs to ensure that all births are registered on time, through the Online Birth Registration system, which has been rolled in 161 health facilities with ability to issue birth certificates on the spot.
“These facilities will be allocated full-time Home Affairs officials to provide birth registration service during office hours. The establishment of the system in these new facilities will commence by the end of October 2023. This initiative will go a long way in providing early birth registration,” Phaahla said.
Integration of COVID-19 vaccinations into primary health services
Meanwhile, the Minister announced that the department has decided to make a number of changes related to COVID-19 vaccinations, which include transitioning from a mass vaccination campaign to integrate vaccination into routine primary health care services.
This is in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.
Phaahla said the current available Pfizer vaccine stock purchased as part of the COVID-19 national vaccination rollout will expire at the end of October 2023, while the J&J vaccine doses will expire at the end of February 2024.
The EVDS (Electronic Vaccination Data System) will continue to record all COVID-19 vaccinations until 29 February 2024, thereafter those vaccinated will receive a paper-record of vaccination, but they will still be able to download vaccination certificates as long as they have at least one vaccination code.
“The department plans to procure vaccines for administration in the public sector and will continue to work with the private sector to facilitate availability of vaccines. All restrictions limiting procurement of vaccines by private sector providers will be lifted,” Phaahla explained.
He added that the investigation and causality assessment of COVID-19 vaccination-related Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs) will continue and mechanisms for processing No Fault Compensation Scheme claims will be retained.
Phaahla also gave an update on various issues affecting the public health system, including cost containment measures; audit outcomes and performance against targets; medico-legal claims, among others.
The Department of Health (DOH) says it is in consultation with scientists over a highly transmissible variant of the COVID-19 virus.
This after media reports over the weekend said the country had found its first case of the variant.
“[The department] has been alerted about this highly transmissible XBB.1.5 variant and is currently in discussions with the scientists to gather more information including its transmissibility and severity. Thus, an official communication will be made in due course.
“In the meantime [the department] is appealing to everyone to vaccinate, get boosters, wear your masks, keep the distance, avoid overcrowded places and wash your hands,” the department said.
By last week Monday, some 38 261 917 vaccines had been administered in the country with more than 19 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The last update by the department in December indicated that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases had crossed 4 million with over 3.9 million recoveries at a recovery rate of 97.2%.
Earlier this month, the department called for calm following an increase in the number of infections in China.
“[The department] is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in China and other parts of the world and will issue an alert if the country needs to take extra precautions. There is no need for panic. We urge people to vaccinate and get booster shots to enhance their immunity,” the department said.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla has announced that as of 2023 all children aged between five and 11 who are at risk of contracting severe COVID-19 will be able to receive the vaccine.
According to the Health Minister, these children will be offered two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with an interval of 21 days between the two doses.
This will include children with chronic respiratory, heart, neurological, kidney, liver and gastrointestinal conditions as well as those with certain endocrine disorders, conditions associated with immunosuppression and serious genetic abnormalities.
The Minister was briefing the media in Ekurhuleni on Thursday.
Phaahla also announced that South Africa has crossed the 38 million mark for administered COVID-19 vaccines since the rollout of the programme began.
“Although the number of COVID-19 cases remains very low around the country, sub-variants of Omicron continue to be detected at low levels across the country,” he said.
He raised his concern about the continued number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded every week.
According to the Minister, the COVID-19 vaccination is now integrated into the primary healthcare services as government has closed the majority of the special vaccination sites.
He told the media that the target remains to reach 70% of the adult population with a particular focus on reaching the elderly and vulnerable groups.
“The department has been receiving enquiries on whether additional COVID-19 vaccine booster doses will be made available to provide ongoing protection against the pandemic, especially for older persons and those who are immunocompromised because they are at the highest risk of severe COVID-19 complications,” the Minister said.
He explained that adults between the ages of 18 and 49 years are eligible to receive three doses, while those 50 years and older are eligible to receive four doses.
“Consideration is being given to an additional booster dose to be offered to both age groups.”
This means adults aged between 18 and 49 years will be eligible to receive a total of four doses, while those 50 years and older will be eligible to receive five doses.
“There is little experience of ideal booster intervals and there is a high level of immunity in the community. At this stage, the intention is to provide another booster at an interval between the previous and the additional booster dose of a minimum of 180 days or six months,” he said.
“Although, this next booster will be a voluntary dose and not part of a wide community campaign. But the department reminds South Africans that the lifting of restrictions didn’t imply that the pandemic is over.”
The Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) will no longer issue the daily numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths due to a decrease in SARS-CoV-2 levels.
This comes after the department and the NICD has been reporting COVID-19 surveillance data on a daily basis since 2020 to keep the South African public abreast about the pandemic situation.
“However, due to the reduced severity and transmissibility of the disease at the current moment, coupled with declining COVID-19 case numbers, the department together with the NICD has reassessed the existing reporting structures and agreed that it is justifiable to allow the majority of members of the reporting structures return to their permanent jobs on a full-time basis,” the department explained.
This means the department will, from 1 August 2022, publish the COVID-19 surveillance data weekly.
However, the department will continue to closely monitor the situation.
“The department would also like to thank all individuals, teams and stakeholders whose sacrifices, commitment and contribution made it possible for government to keep the public up to date with crucial information required to enable people and organisations to make informed health and safety decisions.”
Meanwhile, the department said this does mean the pandemic is over and that the vaccination services will remain accessible at designated sites, including at some public health facilities.
“Until such time that the World Health Organisation announce that the pandemic is over, we urge people to vaccinate and continue to do everything possible to keep themselves safe against the current and future variants of concern.”
The NICD, according to the department, supports the decision and concurs that the current phase of the pandemic no longer requires daily COVID-19 updates.
“The public should be mindful that disease trends and weekly surveillance data largely inform health policies.”
Meanwhile, the NICD said it remains committed to its surveillance activities and will continue reporting COVID-19 surveillance data as per normal, which will be published in the existing weekly surveillance reports.
South Africa has logged 381 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Wednesday.
Gauteng remains the hardest-hit province after 135 were confirmed to have contracted the virus, followed by 106 in the Western Cape, 48 in KwaZulu-Natal and 24 each in Mpumalanga and the North West. This is while the rest of the provinces reported less than 20 cases.
According to the latest data, this means South Africa has 4 003 883 laboratory-confirmed cases since the outbreak.
Meanwhile, data shows that the death toll now stands at 101 976 after five more people lost their lives to COVID-19, of which three occurred in the past 48 hours.
“There has been an increase of eight hospital admissions in the past 24 hours,” the NICD said, adding that 1 024 patients are currently receiving hospital treatment for Coronavirus.
In addition, the Department of Health has now administered 37 162 754 COVID-19 jabs, of which 2 628 428 were given to children aged between 12 and 17.
According to the department, South Africa has 20 247 318 vaccinated adults and 18 461 433 who are fully jabbed.
Globally, as of 27 July 2022, there have been 570 005 017 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6 384 128 deaths, reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Globally, the number of weekly cases reported during the week of 18 to 24 July 2022 was similar to the number reported last week, with over 6.6 million new cases.
Likewise, according to the WHO, the number of new weekly deaths was similar to the number reported during the previous week, with over 12 600 fatalities.
At the regional level, the number of new weekly cases increased in the Western Pacific region, the Eastern Mediterranean region and the South-East Asia region, while it decreased in Africa, Europe and America.
The number of new weekly deaths peaked in the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Western Pacific region and the South East Asia region, while it dropped in Africa and Europe. Meanwhile, the region of the Americas was similar to the figure reported during the previous week.
“Current trends in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths should be interpreted with caution as several countries have been progressively changing COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected. Additionally, data are continuously updated to incorporate regular changes made by countries retrospectively,” the WHO said.
At the country level, the highest numbers of new weekly cases were reported from Japan (969 068), the United States (860 097), Germany (565 518), Italy (531 327), and France (508 620).
The highest numbers of new weekly deaths were reported from the United States (2 637), Brazil (1 396), Italy (952), Spain (810), and France (737).
South Africa detected 550 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 4 001 444 laboratory-confirmed cases.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), most cases were recorded in Gauteng after 262 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Meanwhile, 121 cases were recorded in the Western Cape, 59 in KwaZulu-Natal, 28 in the Eastern Cape, 27 in Mpumalanga and 23 in Free State, while the rest of the provinces logged less than 20 infections.
The Department of Health said four people lost their lives to COVID-19, of which three occurred in the past 48 hours.
This means the country now has a death toll of 101 939 to date.
The latest data also show that there are currently 1 038 patients who are receiving hospital treatment, with 11 admitted since the last reporting cycle.
The department administered 13 941 COVID-19 vaccine doses of which 1 656 were given to children in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 37 077 459.
Globally, during the week of 11 to 17 July 2022, the number of weekly cases plateaued, with just under 6.3 million new cases after an increasing trend for the past five weeks.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the reported number of new weekly deaths increased by 11 000.
At the regional level, the WHO said the number of new weekly cases increased in the Western Pacific region, the region of the Americas and the South-East Asia region, while it decreased in Africa and Europe.
Meanwhile, the number of new weekly cases in the Eastern Mediterranean region was similar to the figure reported during the previous week.
“Current trends in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths should be interpreted with caution as several countries have been progressively changing COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected,” the agency explained, adding that data is continuously updated to incorporate regular changes made by countries retrospectively.
At the country level, the highest numbers of new weekly cases were reported from the United States (866 479), France (757 830), Italy (718 925), Germany (602 930), and Japan (559 111).
The highest numbers of new weekly deaths were recorded in the United States (2 345), Brazil (1 751), Italy (784), Spain (610), and China (576).
As of 17 July 2022, over 559 million confirmed cases and over 6.3 million deaths have been reported globally.
South Africa now has 4 000 894 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases since the outbreak, of which 263 were added on Tuesday.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Gauteng recorded the most cases after 102 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus.
The province is followed by 77 infections in the Western Cape, 30 in KwaZulu-Natal, while the rest of the provinces logged less than 20 cases.
Meanwhile, the latest data reveals that the country lost 13 more patients to COVID-19, one in the past 48 hours.
This means the country now has a death toll of 101 935 since the first case was reported on 5 March 2020.
Meanwhile, nine more people were admitted to hospital in the past 24 hours, pushing the number of hospital admissions to 1 034.
The information is based on the 25 893 612 tests in both the public and private sectors.
In addition, the Department of Health said 13 435 vaccine doses were administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 37 060 820 since the rollout programme began last year.
Data also show that 20 214 165 adults have now received the COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa, while 2 614 505 vaccine doses have been given to children between the ages of 12 and 17.
Globally, as of 19 July 2022, there have been 561 156 416 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6 365 510 deaths, reported to the World Health Organisation.
South Africa now has 3 997 975 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, 702 of which were reported on Monday.
Data show that Gauteng accounted for most of the cases after 364 patients were confirmed to have contracted the virus, followed by 107 in KwaZulu-Natal and 92 in the Western Cape.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), this increase represents a 3.5% positivity rate.
The Department of Health said four people lost their lives in the past 24-hour reporting cycle, pushing the death toll to 101 880.
Meanwhile, 13 people have been admitted for COVID-19 related illness, increasing the number of hospital admissions to 1 135.
The information is based on the 25 826 822 tests that have been conducted in both public and private sectors to date.
Globally, as of 11 July 2022, there have been 552 504 629 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6 347 816 deaths, reported to the World Health Organisation.
As of 3 July 2022, a total of 12 037 259 035 vaccine doses have been administered across the globe.
South Africa now has 3 996 441 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 after 657 people tested positive on Wednesday.
Most new cases in the past 24 hours were reported in Gauteng after 52 citizens were confirmed to have contracted the virus, followed by 13 in the Western Cape, eight in the Eastern Cape and seven in KwaZulu-Natal. Meanwhile, the other provinces reported less than five cases each, while the Northern Cape had zero infections.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), this brings the positivity rate to 4.8%.
In addition, the National Department of Health reported that 12 people succumbed to COVID-19, of which three occurred in the past 24 to 48 hours.
According to the latest statistics, this means the death toll now stands at 101 859 to date.
The data shows that there has been an increase of 14 hospital admissions in the past 24 hours, while the seven-day moving average daily number of cases has gone up slightly.
The information is based on the 25 789 955 tests conducted in the public and private sectors since the outbreak.
Globally, the number of new weekly cases increased for the fourth consecutive week after a declining trend since the last peak in March 2022.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), during the week of 27 June to 3 July 2022, over 4.6 million cases were reported, a figure similar to that of the previous week.
At the regional level, the number of new weekly cases increased in the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, European and the Western Pacific regions, while the areas of Africa and the Americas recorded a drop.
Meanwhile, the number of new weekly deaths dropped by 12% compared to the previous week, with over 8 100 fatalities recorded.
At the country level, the WHO reported that the highest numbers of new weekly cases were logged in France (603 074), Germany (555 331), Italy (511 037), the United States (496 049) and Brazil (334 852).
In addition, as of 3 July 2022, over 546 million confirmed global cases and over 6.3 million deaths had been reported.
Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, on Wednesday repealed the several COVID-19 regulations relating to the wearing of face masks, gatherings and persons entering the country.
The regulations were promulgated by the Minister on 4 May in the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions. President Cyril Ramaphosa in a national address in April said the regulations would be eased gradually.
The gazetting of the regulations means that the wearing of face masks in any public-use indoor space or when on public transport to contain the spread of COVID-19 fell away, as was required.
On gatherings, people congregating in public spaces will no longer be limited to certain numbers.
The regulations stipulated that a maximum of 50% of the venue capacity may be occupied, provided that every attendee must be vaccinated against COVID-19 and produce a valid vaccination certificate. Alternatively, they could produce a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of the gathering.
Where the sub-regulation (3) was not complied with, then attendance at the indoor gathering had to be limited to 1000 people or 50% of the capacity, whichever is smaller.
For any outdoor gathering, a maximum of 50% of the venue capacity could be occupied.
This was provided that every attendee was vaccinated against COVID-19 and produced a valid vaccination certificate. Otherwise, they could produce a valid certificate of a negative COVID-19 test which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of the gathering.
Regarding limitations on people entering the country, the regulations required that any person entering the country be vaccinated against COVID-19 and produce a valid vaccination certificate.
Alternatively, this group of people needed to produce a valid certificate of a negative PCR COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours before the date of departure.