SOUTH AFRICA – The National Department of Health has announced that South Africans over the age of 50 who receive their first shot of the vaccine against COVID-19 can now receive a grocery voucher.

The department said that the “Vooma Vouchers” were aimed at making it easier for older people to get vaccinated by “offsetting some of the costs they incur getting to the vaccination sites.”

The Health Department plans to increase the vaccination rate among people in their 50s, as data shows that over 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths have affected this age group.

At the moment, three in five people in their 50s have received at least one jab.

South Africa started to issue “Vooma Vouchers” for people aged 60 and over beginning last month, encouraging them to get the jab.

Currently, over 13 million people have been fully vaccinated in South Africa. With a population of roughly 60 million people, the country is striving to meet its target of vaccinating 70 percent of its adult population by December 31.

South Africa, which has the most confirmed coronavirus cases on the continent, will likely be hit by a fourth wave of infections but its impact probably won’t be as severe as during earlier surges, new modeling prepared for the government shows.

Sero-prevalence surveys and other data indicate that an estimated 60% to 70% of the population has already contracted Covid-19, which together with vaccinations will provide protection from severe disease, the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium said in an online presentation on Wednesday. Even its worst-case scenario projected that deaths and hospitalizations during a fourth wave would be substantially lower than during prior surges.  

While South Africa’s current caseload is “incredibly low” it’s “very hard to commit to say South Africa is over the worst” of the coronavirus, said Harry Moultrie, a senior epidemiologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which coordinated the modeling. 

The seven-day rolling average of new infections in South Africa has dropped to below 300, from a third-wave peak of almost 20,000 in July.

The country has had 2.93 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 89,504 of those who’ve been diagnosed with the disease have died from it, although excess death numbers indicate the true toll may be much higher. About 34% of the nation’s 39.8 million adults have been fully vaccinated.

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