Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who spent a year as a senior government advisor on COVID-19, has stated that South Africa ‘cannot stop the onset of a fourth wave‘ due to the speed of our vaccine rollout.
Speaking with health experts Bhekisisa, Professor Karim explained that virus variants will pose the greatest challenge to South Africa for the remainder of the year. He believes that the Beta strain, first discovered in SA, will remain dominant.
“If we get a new variant, there are no predictions we can make, because we don’t know how it will behave. But if our dominant variant, which was also the dominant variant in the second wave, is the main form of the virus that drives our third wave, then a proportion of people who got infected before will be protected during the third wave.”
“Beta will likely be dominant again because it’s a much more mutated virus and better adapted for survival. In simple terms, the Beta variant is scarier than the other two variants.” | Professor Salim Abdool Karim.
However, it may not be a case of ‘better the devil we know’ in Mzansi. That’s because ‘Slim’ is now convinced a fourth wave of coronavirus infections will take place on our shores, by about December. However, this has the potential to be blunted by a mix of natural immunity and an increase in the number of vaccinated citizens.
“The fourth wave’s severity is going to depend on a balance between the prospects of a new immune-escape variant versus how fast and how many people we had vaccinated by then. If you finish phase two, then you’ve more or less done what you needed to, which is to give most people at high risk the individual benefit of not getting severe disease.”
“We won’t be able to stop a fourth wave, because you have to have a very high level of vaccination to stop a fourth wave. You’d have to vaccinate 70-to-80% of the population, which we would not likely achieve in time. But when it comes, it will likely be a small, mini fourth wave.”