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Crisp: Unjabbed will ‘bear the brunt’, as infections rise and vaccinations stall

Health Department Deputy Director-General Nicholas Crisp has criticised those who refuse to get their jabs, saying the “unvaccinated will bear the brunt” of the latest COVID-19 resurgence, reports TimesLIVE.

Despite the increasing spread of COVID – 24,985 confirmed infections in the past week as of Sunday (1 May), and 69 deaths in the same week – only 40,000 people a day were vaccinated in the week ending last Friday, a fraction of the original target of 250,000 and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s dream of 300,000. Only 45% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

“But we are all at risk, because pools of unvaccinated and non-immune people raise the risk of new variants, so while the unvaccinated will bear the brunt, they won’t be alone. It saddens me deeply that people still don’t see the obvious value of immunisation,” Crisp said.

A US study published in The British Medical Journal shows that counties with high vaccine coverage had a more than 80% reduction in death rates compared with largely unvaccinated counties. This confirms the findings of many other global studies.

Millions of South Africans still refuse to be vaccinated, however, and Mosa Moshabela, a medical professor at the University of KZN, told the Sunday Times: “The responsibility lies with the individual, while the state will be responsible for the health system. Those two things should happen at the same time.”

He said the government “has done a good job going by age groups, but we now need interventions that are closer to communities and people… to make sure the health department works closely with the education department and social development so that targeted policies and actions” can ensue.

Speaking on behalf of the Network for Genomic Surveillance, UKZN expert Richard Lessells said South Africans have a “complex mix of immunity” but waning of natural immunity against infection “happens quickly” while this is less true for vaccine-induced immunity.

“The key public health measure against all these variants and lineages will always be vaccination to prevent severe disease and death, regardless of whether you’ve been infected before or not.”

On mandatory vaccines, deputy health minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the department would still rather “persuade people that this [vaccination] is how you prevent severe disease and death”, and that the real target was the 18-35 cohort. Less than 35% of the 5m people in this group had been vaccinated.

Study details

Public health impact of COVID-19 vaccines in the US: observational study

Amitabh Bipin Suthar, Jing Wang, Victoria Seffren, Ryan E Wiegand, Sean Griffing, Elizabeth Zell.

Published in The BMJ on 27 April 2022


To evaluate the impact of vaccine scale-up on population level COVID-19 mortality and incidence in the United States.

Design Observational study
Setting US county level case surveillance and vaccine administration data reported from 14 December 2020 to 18 December 2021.
Participants Residents of 2558 counties from 48 US states.

Main outcome measures
The primary outcome was county COVID-19 mortality rates (deaths/100 000 population/county week). The secondary outcome was incidence of COVID-19 (cases/100 000 population/county week). Incidence rate ratios were used to compare rates across vaccination coverage levels. The impact of a 10% improvement in county vaccination coverage (defined as at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine among adults ≥18 years of age) was estimated During the eras of alpha and delta variant predominance, the impact of very low (0-9%), low (10-39%), medium (40-69%), and high (≥70%) vaccination coverage levels was compared.

In total, 30 643 878 cases of COVID-19 and 439 682 deaths associated with COVID-19 occurred over 132 791 county weeks. A 10% improvement in vaccination coverage was associated with an 8% (95% confidence interval 8% to 9%) reduction in mortality rates and a 7% (6% to 8%) reduction in incidence. Higher vaccination coverage levels were associated with reduced mortality and incidence rates during the eras of alpha and delta variant predominance.

Higher vaccination coverage was associated with lower rates of population level COVID-19 mortality and incidence in the US.


The BMJ article – Public health impact of COVID-19 vaccines in the US: observational study (Open access)


TimesLIVE article – ‘Abysmal behaviour’: Health chief Crisp hits out at vaccine refuseniks (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Tests and wastewater analyses signal a possible 5th wave in SA


Madhi: Dump global plan to vaccinate 70% against COVID


South African government has ‘quietly de-prioritised vaccinations’


WHO study finds 800m people in Africa had COVID-19



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