South Africa: What South Africa Must Do to Prepare for the Third Wave Double Whammy of Covid-19 and Flu This Winter

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive (file photo).

Pandemic preparedness for the third wave of Covid-19 must include a strong influenza prevention strategy, including vaccination.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Over the past year, SA has been ravaged by Covid-19. To date, more than 1.5 million cases and more than 50,000 deaths have been confirmed. The true number of cases is likely to be more than 10 million, and we know that unexplained deaths, most of which are due to Covid-19, sit well above 100,000. With ongoing community transmission and subsequent error-prone viral replication, new variants of SARS-CoV-2 will probably emerge and may favour further transmission.

None of us knows when the third wave will hit, but most of us in public health and science believe our Covid-19 vaccination roll-out will not be quick enough to prevent this, nor subsequent waves. If the next wave coincides with the winter respiratory virus season, particularly a seasonal flu epidemic, a double whammy will hit South Africa and its health system.

Influenza kills about 10,000 people of five years and older each year in South Africa, a relatively small number compared with the past year's Covid-19 deaths but still a heavy toll....

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