Prof Salim Abdool Karim Weekly COVID-19 UPDATES

2 May 2023

The delay in this short missive is due to the long-weekend break in South Africa. The situation at global level has changed little from last week with a continuing downward trend in cases and deaths (Figure 1).  This continued downward trend is important as the new omicron sub-variant – XBB.1.16 – is gaining momentum is come countries. Since many cases of this infection are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, testing is not being sought and hence the low case numbers may be camouflaging an increase in mild cases. 

The situation in South Africa has similarly shown little change (Figure 2). The number of cases and deaths remains low.

As we look at some of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on other health services, one of the worrying trends is the decline in childhood vaccination rates across the world, but most severely in West and Central Africa (Figure 3). Poorer children have been worst affected across all regions, according the UNICEF report summarised below. This is concerning because of the long-term consequences – that this will lead to future epidemics of vaccine-preventable conditions. Among these concerns is that we may start seeing outbreaks of measles in a few years when groups of adolescents with sub-optimal vaccine coverage coalesces in colleges leading to outbreaks like some that we have seen before. It is going to be Herculean to overcome this past deficit, especially for the 48 million who did not receive a single dose of any vaccine.


Have a great week.


Salim S. Abdool Karim, FRS
Director: CAPRISA
CAPRISA Professor of Global Health: Columbia University