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Are our children at greater risk during the Covid-19 third wave?

18 June 2021 12:36 PM
Tags:
School
Teachers
COVD-19
children coronavirus
vaccine rollout
Child Covid

Refilwe Moloto speaks to Professor Jeremy Nel, head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital.
  • South Africa is in the grips of a third wave, with daily infection numbers above 11 000 cases for a second consecutive day
  • School teachers are next in line to receive the vaccine
  • Nel believes senior citizens with comorbidities should be prioritised for vaccination ahead of all other groups, including teachers
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As South Africa finds itself in the grips of the Covid-19 third wave and the inoculation program stutters, there is concern around the rise in infections in schools.

Professor Jeremy Nel, head of Division of infectious diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital says we should not panic.

Children are still protected by virtue of their age for the vast majority. Covid has still got a massive, what we call an age determinacy in it's mortality.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

It really does, more than any other infectious disease that I'm aware of, age does really play into it's hands. You really are so much more likely to get really sick, and or die as you get older.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

What is a little bit different about this wave, and it's a bit early to say for certain, but a lot more children appear to be infected. That was always the case, children could always get infected, the issue was will they get severely infected.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

The fact that we have so many more children in this wave might be partly the fact that the schools are open during this wave, when they weren't during the previous two waves.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

Nell says senior citizens and those with underlying health issues like diabetes should be prioritised for the vaccine ahead of all other groups, including educators.

We really still need to target the elderly and those with comorbidities, first and foremost because that is still who fills the hospitals, that's still who drives the fear and the lockdown. As much as we are seeing younger children getting infected slightly more this wave, I certainly still think we need to focus on the elderly and the comorbid as a matter of extreme urgency.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

RELATED: Clock ticking for 500 000 'teachers' Covid jabs with 3 week shelf life

Everyone needs a vaccine in this country. Teachers should get a vaccine as much as everyone else, but the question is, are teachers at higher risk than average of getting severe covid? The answer really is no.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

The average age of teachers in South Africa is relatively young. The scholars are pretty young. Teacher are probably slightly high risk of catching covid than average, but no more so than many professions. Why not then cashiers at stores?

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

RELATED: Teachers should be higher on SA's vaccine priority list, says Naptosa

If you want to make a dent in what actually matters, namely death and severe disease, because that is really what this is about, then you have to focus on age and comorbidities, not particular groups.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

To the extent that teachers are elderly and do have comorbidities, of course they should be prioritised. But if you're saying should a twenty-eight-year-old teacher jump ahead of a fifty-eight-year-old with diabetes, absolutely not.

Professor Jeremy Nel, Head of Division of Infectious Diseases at Wits University's Helen Joseph Hospital

Scroll to the top of the article to listen to the audio of the interview.




18 June 2021 12:36 PM
Tags:
School
Teachers
COVD-19
children coronavirus
vaccine rollout
Child Covid

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