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Monday, 22 November 2021

Johannesburg — Continued vaccine hesitancy in South Africa, along with excessive complacency among those who have been vaccinated, is likely to be a key driver of the fourth wave of infections, the AfroCentric Group said today, with Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmed Banderker saying it is likely to be "a wave of the unvaccinated".

Given the progress in the vaccination rate, though still low and slow, and increased levels of natural immunity, the impact of the 4th wave in terms of hospitalisation is expected to be less severe than previous waves of infections. According to Banderker, this is because of the “high immunity” environment that is the result of the vaccination rollout and prior infections. “Vaccinations will not prevent infections, but we do know that they will provide substantial protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death due to Covid-19,” Banderker said.

Based on claims modelling and vaccination data, experts from SA's largest healthcare group and medical scheme administrator expect the incoming fourth wave to start early December, with hospital admissions peaking at between 40% and 80% of the third wave.

Banderker said from a scheme admission data and total treatment cost perspective, the numbers indicate the fourth wave should see between 30% and 50% of that seen in the third wave.

Banderker, however, warned that vaccinations could lead many people into a false sense of complacency. “The Group is already a seeing a small but steady upsurge in cases, especially in populated provinces like Gauteng, but it’s too early to say whether it’s the start of a fourth wave. Those who are not yet vaccinated should do so now,” he said.

"More relaxed behaviour from the vaccinated population may lead to a quicker spread of the disease during a fourth wave, during which hospital capacity may again become a concern, especially for the unvaccinated."

He said vaccinations remain the most important weapon in the fight against Covid-19. “With hardly a month to go until the festive season begins, we can only hope that the number of vaccinated South Africans increases enough to curb the spread and flatten the curve,” he said.

He urged all South Africans to get vaccinated and continue to adhere to Covid-19 precautions, especially when travelling during the festive season. "That means wear your mask, avoid large crowds and enclosed public spaces and stay safe. The impact of the coming wave depends critically on continued adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions and working together to address vaccine hesitancy," concluded Banderker.

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