Government confirms that those younger than 35 could begin to register for their Covid-19 vaccines as early as September.
This unexpected announcement followed a plea by a Limpopo farmer and general practitioner, Dr Vusi Khosa, that younger age groups should get the jab much sooner.
Yesterday, during an interview with eNCA, deputy director-general in the health department Nicholas Crisp said under-35s could join the virtual registration queue by “the middle to end of September.”
Currently, vaccinations are reserved for people older than 35, except for priority groups such as educators, police and healthcare workers. The pace of Mzansi’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out has, however, dramatically sped up since government also gave the green light for those between 35 and 49.
‘We can’t leave younger groups behind’
Crisp’s announcement came after Khosa told Food For Mzansi that younger age groups are more prone to spread the virus than people aged 50 and above who were initially prioritised.
Asked about his view on the vaccine roll-out in the agricultural sector, Khosa said one must bear in mind that the average farmer in South Africa is 62 years old.
“I think the main crisis [potentially putting food security at risk] lies with the younger and middle-aged farmers that are not yet accommodated by the rollout. It would be a catastrophic move to leave them behind.”
Khosa warns that these younger groups are also impacted by Covid-19.
“It would be disastrous [to not prioritise younger age groups who are at risk] since people with comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory disorders, and immune-suppressive diseases are more likely to develop severe complications that lead to death.”
Concern about farming communities
Meanwhile, Khosa also noted that many people in farming communities remain hesitant to receive the vaccine. “We need to be cognisant of the fact that development of new things [like the vaccine] lead to discussions.
“Everyone has the right to share their opinions and feelings. Unfortunately, the world is ruled by science, and immunisations have shown to result in relatively minimal symptoms and a lower risk of contracting the disease.”
Khosa said refusing to get the Covid-19 vaccine can be disastrous, not only for the country and individuals, but also for food security. In the last few months, many farmers have died as a result of the coronavirus.
“The majority of our food comes from commercial farmers aged 60 and older, and it takes a long time to build up a commercial farmer,” he said.
This sentiment was shared by Andrea Campher, the risk and disaster manager at Agri SA.
She told Food For Mzansi, “While the exclusion of the agricultural sector, [including] farmworkers, could potentially have grave implications, we encourage farmers to go out there and get vaccinated.
“We need to recognise that this sector plays a significant role in food and energy production, as well as functioning as an integral element of the national economy, so if you are able to, do so.”