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South Africa Highly Vulnerable to Fourth COVID-19 Wave

FILE - A woman walks past newspaper billboards telling of another COVID-19 outbreak in Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 8, 2021.

South Africa's government said it has enough vaccines to reach its target of immunizing 60 percent of its population against COVID-19 by the end of the year.

But it’s facing a low participation rate for the vaccines in the country that has seen one of of the worst outbreaks of COvid-19 on the continent.

Fewer than 30 percent of the 60 million South Africans- roughly 24 million - are fully vaccinated, leaving the nation highly vulnerable to a fourth wave of the pandemic that is expected to strike in mid-December.

"The battle is not over," said deputy president David Mabuza,during a virtual meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee of the South African National Aids Council on Monday. "We dare not let our guard down as the fourth wave of the pandemic potentially looms large on the horizon.”

In October, President Cyril Ramaphosa launched a campaign in Gauteng province to persuade more people nationwide to get vaccinated.

"We believe we need to vaccinate 17 million people between now and the end of the year and we believe that it is doable," Ramaphosa said.

But vaccinations have been slow-going.

The health department last weekend aimed to vaccinate half a million people but managed get only half of that.

“That’s not good," Mosa Moshabela, the head of innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told VOA. "However, the numbers are larger than we saw the last weekend, so it’s making a little bit of a difference.."

Despite the country's COVID-19 death toll surpassing 89,000 since the pandemic began, experts say simmering anti-vaccination movement is slowing down the country’s vaccination rate.

The government attempted to mandate vaccine passports but the effort was met with a series of protests, The backlash led the authorities to leave individual businesses to decide whether or not to make vaccinations mandatory for employees and clients.

Still, some in South Africa want the state to be stricter on unvaccinated people by putting limits on their activities.

Many civil groups, have been combating vaccine hesitancy by delivering the shots to doorsteps.

"Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has tested our resolve as a nation and united us as a people, it has also illustrated once more that community-based and civil society organizations are the lifeblood of this country," Ramaphosa said.