I am also one of the lucky ones who were able to continue to earn a living by working from home. I rarely go out, unlike the hundreds of thousands of South African taxis and other public transport users who face an increased risk of contracting the virus.
But in early June, I had no choice: I needed to interview several people for a corruption investigation I was working on, and my sources only spoke to me in person.
I felt the risk was low as I had been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson one shot vaccine six weeks earlier – enough time to develop immunity to the virus. Nonetheless, I left well prepared with a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket. I also wore two well-fitting masks, each with additional, replaceable filter material inserted into a special pocket, as I normally do on the rare occasion I go out in public.
At a time when the Delta variant is popping up around the world, someone like me who is vaccinated may be lulled into a false sense of security, but in South Africa, where vaccination rates are lagging far behind. , the threat remains quite high – and until vaccination rates increase – additional precautions are needed.
Arriving for my meeting at Hout Bay Harbor in Cape Town, I found myself in a small room with two other people, neither of them wearing masks. I was able to position myself about 2 meters – over 6 feet – from them, but at the start of the interview several other people, none of whom were wearing masks, entered the room.
Feeling very uncomfortable, I asked, after less than five minutes, if we could continue outside. But it was too late. In those few minutes, despite all my precautions, I now believe that I had been infected.
About two weeks later, I developed barking, a dry cough, and a sore throat, and sneezed non-stop. I was also breathing with difficulty – but, due to the vaccination and all my precautions, I convinced myself that it was the flu and decided that all I needed was paracetamol and bed rest.
The next day my body ached like I had done a few rounds with a professional boxer, and I literally took my breath away. My doctor, after a phone consultation, told me that I had to take a Covid test. He also prescribed cortisone and a very strong antibiotic.
The test was quick and easy, and early the next morning my doctor called to say I had tested positive. He prescribed me additional medications and a variety of vitamins to strengthen my immune system. He also suggested that I buy a cheap battery operated pulse oximeter to monitor my blood oxygen levels.
If my breathing got worse or my oxygen levels dropped below 94, I should go straight to the nearest emergency room as I may need oxygen or even hospitalization, did he declare.
Almost miraculously, the next morning my oxygen levels improved and I was able to breathe easier. I still didn’t feel well, but my condition improved significantly. I am now almost fully recovered, although I still have lingering after-effects from Covid, including fatigue and confused thoughts if I overwork myself.
Nevertheless, I had dodged a bullet in my name thanks to the fact that I had been vaccinated. I have joined a growing number of people infected with Covid-19 when they had been vaccinated. In fact, my doctor said I was a third of his patients who had been vaccinated and then tested positive: I and another person had contracted “mild” Covid, and a third who was briefly hospitalized and s has since fully recovered. My doctor thinks the vaccine protected us from the worst of the virus and made our recovery faster.
Once I felt better, I posted my experience on Facebook, hearing it as a warning to friends not to let their guard down and to continue wearing masks even though they have been vaccinated.
What followed surprised me: While many people wished me luck, others – either anti-vaccines or vaccine-hesitant – took my experience as proof that Covid vaccinations don’t work. not, rather than minimizing my illness and helping speed up my recovery. .
Others messaged me on Facebook and suggested that I take ivermectin – a drug often used to treat parasites – which they said they themselves, or others they did. knew, had used to “sort” Covid, despite the fact that there is no evidence yet that it has any advantage against the virus.
Did I have the Delta variant? It’s hard to say for sure, but the highly contagious variant, which has now been detected in at least 85 countries, is quickly becoming dominant in many parts of the world, including the United States, where on July 3 it was responsible for 51.7% of all new cases of Covid-19, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In South Africa, the official death toll from Covid-19 is now over 63,000.
As of July 7, Gauteng province accounted for 34.5% of South Africa’s total recorded 2,112,336 infections. Delta is now the dominant strain in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, north and east of Cape Town, where I live, and is increasing rapidly in other parts of the country. The Western Cape, the province in which Cape Town is located, is now “firmly in a third wave”, according to Prime Minister Alan Winde.
This deadly third wave has left health services crumbling and led to a new level four lockdown, which includes a total ban on the sale of alcohol, a ban on all social, political and religious gatherings, a ban leisure travel to and from Gauteng. and a 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew. He has also seen Gauteng hospitals fill up quickly. As of the week of July 4, over 90% of private and public hospital beds were full.
On Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech to the nation that 4,200 people had died from Covid in the past two weeks and warned that by next week “daily hospital levels are expected to peak at first and second waves “. He also announced the extension of most of South Africa’s level four lockdown for an additional two weeks.
The South African government is increasingly criticized for its lack of preparedness in the face of a wave caused by the highly infectious variant of the Delta. But some experts say it was the scientists who got it wrong in not predicting that Delta could become the dominant strain.
The South African government has also been criticized for being slow in rolling out vaccines compared to neighbors Botswana and Zimbabwe. Analysis of Daily Maverick data shows that at the end of May, only 2.5 vaccines had been delivered per 100 people on the continent. A dismal figure to say the least. And yet, compared to the rest of the continent, South Africa’s vaccination rate was lower than that of its neighbors.
“While South Africa delivered only 1.6 vaccines per 100 people, Namibia delivered double that rate, and Botswana and Zimbabwe more than three times that rate. South Africa accounts for 43% of confirmed deaths from Covid-19 but only 3% of vaccinations in Africa, ”the Daily Maverick reported.
As of July 9, South Africa’s vaccination rate had improved to seven vaccinations per 100 people, according to a CNN barometer that tracks vaccinations around the world. Nonetheless, it still lags behind Botswana – 11 percent – and cash-strapped Zimbabwe – nine percent.
South African health authorities began by vaccinating health workers, then people over 60, then those 50 to 59 years old. Acting Health Minister MmaMoloko Kubayi announced on July 9 that she would soon include people between the ages of 35 and 49.
Ramaphosa also told South Africans on Sunday that more than 17 million doses of J&J will be delivered to Africa from the end of July and that the company is committed to producing licensed vaccines in South Africa.
But it’s too late to help with South Africa’s third wave of Covid infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
At a press conference at the end of June, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said that “we need a sprint, not a stroll, to quickly protect those most at risk. more dangerously exposed.
This is in part because of the inequality of vaccines. An Oxfam analysis last September revealed that “rich countries representing only 13% of the world’s population have already captured more than half (51%) of the promised doses of the main Covid-19 vaccine candidates”, then still in phase 3 clinical trials.
Without a doubt, the key to saving more South Africans – and other Africans – from the death of this deadly virus is to get people vaccinated at a faster rate. And the United States and surplus countries are expected to send their surplus vaccines, as President Joe Biden announced he was doing to Indonesia, also plagued by a wave of Covid.
For me, having already reported and read a lot about Covid, I believed so before, but after my own experience I am even more certain.