Covid-19 vaccine won't eradicate virus but will help break and slow transmission
Is SA managing to tame the Covid-19 storm?
Mike Wills, standing in for John Maytham, talks to Professor Shabir Mahdi, Executive Director at National Institute For Communicable Diseases.
The Sunday Times headline that South Africa is managing the Covid-19 storm is somewhat misleading, says Mahdi.
We certainly not taming Covid-19 but we are experiencing is that at least in the Western Cape and Gauteng, in terms of this wave things seem to have plateaued.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
He says numbers have peaked and will start to drop.
It has got very little to do with what we are doing and rather the natural evolution of the virus.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
He says some 20% of the population is responsible for about 80% of all infections, and more so those coming from densely populated areas.
These areas are developing some kind of immunity though he says it is not herd immunity in the strict sense - but it does interrupt the chain o transmission of the virus..
It is likely that we will see a second wave of the virus.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
It remains unclear the duration of time in which people will remain immune once recovering from the virus.
We probably will have further outbreaks but the magnitude of subsequent outbreaks is pretty much of an unknown at this stage.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
The infections and fatalities would likely be lower, he adds as so many people have developed some level of immunity already.
Why has this not happened in the United States?
Mahdi says this could be due to the inconsistent response across the United States.
The US has been all over the place in their response. I think there was at least some structure in our response in South Africa and some consistency in our messagingProf Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
He says in America's response across different states varied enormously so it is difficult to analyse the USA as a single country and perhaps more useful to look at it state by state.
Mahdi believes South Africa should maintain certain practices for the foreseeable future such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
Without a doubt, avoiding mass gatherings, wearing face masks, ensuring adequate ventilated areas and physical distancing.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
Certainly, these things need to continue until a vaccine is found which will not be within the next 6 to 12 months, he adds.
The earliest in South Arica we are likely to get a vaccine is the third quarter of next year.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
Madhi notes that the situation will also depend on how effective the vaccines are.
It will also depend on whether the vaccine protects against infection in the upper airwaves or only infection of the lung.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
Vaccines that only protect against lung disease, or example, are less likely to rapidly induce herd immunity, whereas vaccines that protect against infections in the upper airwaves are more likely to induce herd immunity.
He still even then still depends on the efficacy of the vaccine and there are a number of factors that determine the interruption of transmission of the virus.
Roughly what you want is 60% of the population to be immune.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
At a population level, the more people that don't have the vaccine, that doesn't get immunised, the less likely we will be able to reach the herd immunity threshold.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
Even when the 60% immunity threshold is reached, he explains, the virus will not die out.
Covid-19 virus is going to be with us for decades to come still.
But vaccines and large numbers of immunity interrupt the chain of transmission lower the chances of becoming infected even if the virus is circulating, he notes.
In all likelihood, it will become more of a seasonal nuisance virus but it will still cause people to die, but at a much lower rate.Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand
In conclusion, a vaccine is not going to eradicate or eliminate the virus.
Listen to the interview with Prof Madhi below:
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