Seventy percent of those who have been admitted to hospital are those who are unvaccinated, revealed Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, on Friday.
According to the Minister, while scientists are still conducting more studies if vaccines work against the Omicron variant, early signs indicate they are still effective.
“So as things stand the vaccines are showing to be still very strong in protecting against severe disease as it did with previous variants,” he said during a media briefing, adding that figures are showing those who are vaccinated are better protected.
In addition, current treatments used over the last 20 months are still very relevant and very effective. These include steroid, corticosteroid oxygen therapy, antivirals, and anticoagulants.
Phaahla told the media that between 14 November and 4 December 2021, there has been an increase in admission of children under five years, especially in Tshwane metro hospitals where early resurgence occurred. For the under-18s, hospital admissions comprised 21% of admissions.
However, according to the Minister, the patterns has since changed, with the proportion of admissions in children less than five years decreasing from 21% to 14% in the previous week to 8% this week.
“But it has now changed to more adults getting infected,” he added.
The provincial and national pictures is indicating a peak in both cases and admissions among children of all age groups. However, there is no change in the proportion of children getting seriously ill or dying.
“Early data from hospital surveillance also reports from public and private hospitals indicate that admissions are largely in children admitted for other reasons, and then testing positive and for very short durations.”
Despite making up 30% of the population, the younger people comprise only 12% of cases and 5% of hospital admissions.
“However, the children who are at risk of severe disease are those under one year and other people with other comorbidities for children who are premature and who have diabetes, cancer and those with HIV and TB.”
The Minister said he was unclear what is driving the apparent increase in children. “But what we want to say is that there is no need for alarm.”
In addition, he said while the other aspects of the transmissibility are showing, there are signs that the Omicron is less severe.
“We know that the vaccines as emphasised, it remains the bulwark of protection against all these variants.”
In Gauteng, the Minister said the weekly infections increased by more than 400% since last week and hospital admissions jumped by more than 200%.
According to the Minister, Omicron was the dominant variant among samples sequenced during November 2021.
“That is, as far as of yesterday, 70% of the tests done are showing Omicron as a dominant variant, which is most likely the variant driving the increase in cases in Gauteng.
“Omicron is quickly displacing the Delta variant in Gauteng and is also spreading in other provinces.”
The Minister has urged people to get the vaccine, as the country races to reach the 27 million mark of administered jabs before the end of the day.
He has called on the younger aged between 18 and 35, which is sitting below 30% in terms of vaccine coverage, to get the shot.