Mukandavire Z, Nyabadza F, Malunguza NJ, Cuadros DF, Shiri T, Musuka G (2020)
PLoS ONE 15(7): e0236003. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0236003
The emergence and fast global spread of COVID-19 has presented one of the greatest public health challenges in modern times with no proven cure or vaccine. Africa is still early in this epidemic, therefore the extent of disease severity is not yet clear. We used a mathematical model to fit to the observed cases of COVID-19 in South Africa to estimate the basic reproductive number and critical vaccination coverage to control the disease for different hypothetical vaccine efficacy scenarios. We also estimated the percentage reduction in effective contacts due to the social distancing measures implemented. Early model estimates show that COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa had a basic reproductive number of 2.95 (95% credible interval [CrI] 2.83–3.33). A vaccine with 70% efficacy had the capacity to contain COVID-19 outbreak but at very higher vaccination coverage 94.44% (95% Crl 92.44–99.92%) with a vaccine of 100% efficacy requiring 66.10% (95% Crl 64.72–69.95%) coverage. Social distancing measures put in place have so far reduced the number of social contacts by 80.31% (95% Crl 79.76–80.85%). These findings suggest that a highly efficacious vaccine would have been required to contain COVID-19 in South Africa. Therefore, the current social distancing measures to reduce contacts will remain key in controlling the infection in the absence of vaccines and other therapeutics.