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Today — May 14th 2021Your RSS feeds

Vaccine process a mountain to climb

May 14th 2021 at 01:55

If one thing sums up the stoic nature of many South Africans, it is their ability to stand for hours in seemingly endless queues for some or other government service.

Given the chaotic nature of the vaccination queues around the country this week – as health workers rushed at the last minute to get Johnson & Johnson jabs as part of the Sisonke study project – we should all be worried, very worried, that similar scenes don’t play out from Monday next week, when the second phase of the inoculation programme is due to kick off.

In yesterday’s lines, there was little adherence to the rules of social distancing – which is not easy when you’re anxious and have been lined up for five hours or more – so the vaccination process may well have been counterproductive in that it could have been a “superspreader” event.

The reassurances from the department of health that phase two will be orderly are no real assurance at all.

That is because the government’s whole approach to vaccines and vaccinations has been contradictory and
confusing.

We turned away the AstraZeneca doses because we believed they would be ineffective – while many other countries are using them.

Then, we seemingly didn’t get our orders in on time for full stocks of vaccines to be acquired. The bottom line: we are lagging behind most of the rest of the world – and by some estimates, it would take a decade, at the current rate, to vaccinate the 70% of the population which would guarantee community immunity.

There are still 40 million more people who need to get the jab. That looks like a mountain to climb.

The Covid vaccination process must not be allowed to turn into another disaster, along with the rest of the catastrophes visited upon us by our ANC rulers.

‘It is going to be a mess’, says worried nursing unions about vaccine rollout

May 14th 2021 at 01:20

Nursing unions have raised concerns about the readiness of provinces to rollout Covid-19 vaccinations next week.

On Monday, the country will start vaccinating people aged 60 and above, using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Eleanor Roberts, Western Cape chair of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, said the long queues this week, as healthcare workers tried to get vaccinated, were worrying.

Healthcare workers have been in long queues to get the jab before the end of the Sisonke Johnson & Johnson implementation study.

ALSO READ: Chaos at Maxeke hospital as vaccine trial comes to an end

“We cannot expect older people to stand in long queues,” Roberts said

“What we are seeing with the healthcare workers cannot happen with older people.”

She said the union was still trying to gauge the readiness of provincial departments for Monday’s rollout, but “at this stage, it’s a bleak situation, we think they are not ready for it”.

Chaos The Young Nurses Indaba said they expect Monday’s vaccine rollout to be chaotic. Spokesperson Rich Sicina said scenes at hospitals next week were likely to be even worse when the national rollout begins.

Sicina said vaccines for healthcare workers should have been available at all facilities, instead of a few, because of the demand.

“What they are doing is wrong. Why are they not distributing these vaccines at different facilities, instead of people going to one facility? We have nurses who have not been able to work because they stand in long lines the whole day,” said Sicina.

He said many healthcare workers have still not received the vaccine, despite registering online.

“Many of our members have still not received this vaccine. What will happen when you have nurses, who are not vaccinated now, having to vaccinate the public. It is going to be a mess. Monday, we are going to see a complete mess.”

The point was echoed by Roberts, who questioned “What is going to happen with the healthcare workers that are not vaccinated?”

WATCH: Principal thrown out of school, Lesufi threatens ‘drastic steps’

Sicina said the union had warned their members of long working hours, to accommodate people who want the vaccine.

“A lot of people want to go vaccinate. They have seen so many people die, and they are scared.”

Deputy director-general for the national health department, Anban Pillay, said they were planning to go to old age homes on Monday, Fin24 reported.

“Many of them are frail. So, rather than asking them to come to our facilities, we’ve asked provincial colleagues to go to those facilities,” he said.

For the elderly not in care homes, the department was working with the South African Social Security Agency to register people at social grants pay points.

“They will register people and even make an attempt to set up vaccination sites, where feasible, in those areas, so that it can be convenient for pensioners,” Pillay was reported as saying.

Yesterday — May 13th 2021Your RSS feeds

Chaos at Maxeke hospital as vaccine trial comes to an end

May 13th 2021 at 16:13

 

As health workers around the country scrambled in a last-minute rush to get vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jab before the Sisonke trial ends on Saturday, authorities pledged that the chaotic scenes would not be repeated when the second phase kicks off on Monday.

Lines of people queuing to be vaccinated on Thursday snaked around the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital with minimal social distancing. The Gauteng department of health had to appeal for calm.

The Gauteng MEC for health’s spokeswoman, Kwara Kekana, said the department was doing its best for phase two vaccination roll-out preparations.

“The department prepared to the best of its ability. This vaccination was the very first of its kind,so we would improve as we went if there were any issues,” she said.

ALSO READ: ‘Employers hide test results of Covid-positive health workers’

Kekana added that when the second phase begins on Monday, not all vaccination sites would start operations at the same time – they would be phased in.

“We will work with various stakeholders such as old-age homes to roll out the programme to the elderly. We urge everyone who can use the electronic vaccine data system [EVDS] to register there.”

EVDS registrations have been open since last month to people over the age of 60 – the priority group for phase two.

Many of those who have done so have reported receiving confirmation SMS messages, but have heard nothing further about when and where they will have appointments to get the jab.

The EVDS offers those who register a choice of whether they would prefer to be vaccinated at a facility close to home or to where they work, if applicable.

A choice is also offered of morning or afternoon appointments. The chaos at vaccinations sites on Thursday was because of a “last-minute rush” by health workers, according to Professor Ameena Goga, co-principal investigator for the Sisonke trial study.

“Sisonke was implemented on 17 February and demand declined. With the increasing Covid-19 daily infections, healthcare workers flocked to the vaccination centres for vaccines, which was wonderful as it indicated limited vaccine hesitancy,” she said.

Goga added: “Sisonke had always had a limited 500 000 J&J doses available for the study.”

Zanele Jange, a health worker from Sandton, said she was in the Charlotte Maxeke queue since 5am yesterday morning and was worried that it would be more chaotic on Monday, when the second phase of the roll-out started.

“My plan was to queue until I was at the front of the line although I was aware that there was a possibility of being turned away. That would mean being back here on Monday,” she said.

Nombongo Sibetho, another health worker, said although she received her vaccine, the process was disorganised.

“After I waited for four hours yesterday [on Wednesday], we were told the vaccines were finished and advised to write down our names on a list and to return today,” she said.

“I arrived at 8am and I waited in a long queue that was about half a kilometre long.”

asandam@citizen.co.za

R3 billion donation – the first step to SA becoming a vaccine powerhouse?

May 13th 2021 at 09:51
By: Nica

A US-based, South African-born billionaire surgeon, CEO of immunotherapy company ImmunityBio and bioscientist from Gqeberha has generously vowed to invest R3 billion in South Africa’s vaccine manufacturing plans. 

Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong announced his plans to ramp up second-generation Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing in South Africa and Africa during the Sixth Access to Covid-19 tools Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting, hosted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and co-chaired by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, on Wednesday.

This in a bid to quell the array of Covid-19 variants plaguing the continent. 

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa’s vaccine manufacturing plans not really feasible

“Africa can, and Africa will. While South Africa has not in its own right built a vaccine since 2001, that will change,” Soon-Shiong said.

“We as an organisation will commit an initial R3 billion to capitalise on this actively in South Africa and work with Africa so the capacity and second-generation vaccinology, cell therapy and delivery systems can be implemented.”

Soon-Shiong also said there was a definite need to “worry about tropical diseases we neglected because they’re African”, and reiterated his plans to “come back to South Africa and transfer this kind of technology” – not just now, but in the future. 

“This country could catalyse the capacity-building and self-sufficiency, and the innovation for Africa and for vaccines.

“I am more convinced that not only [does South Africa] have the science, [it] has the human capital and the capacity and the desire.”

ALSO READ: How SA companies are plugging the Pfizer jab storage hole

How feasible is Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing in SA?

What could potentially throw a spanner into Soon-Shiong’s works, however, is the doubt among experts of the feasibility of manufacturing, bottling and distributing its own, second-generation vaccine. 

This after President Cyril Ramaphosa said earlier in May that the country plans to scale-up local production of the vaccine if a proposal supported by South Africa, India and the US is accepted.

ALSO READ: Indian Covid-19 variant in SA now ‘of concern’ says WHO

Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University associate professor Jeff Dorfman told The Citizen earlier this week that the country’s ability to produce a meaningful amount of vaccines is doubtful. 

Ndlovu Care Hroup CEO Dr Hugo Tempelmann said full-scale production of a vaccine would be a risky investment for South Africa.

University of the Free State microbiology and food biotechnology professor Robert Bragg said the country may have the capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccines, but lacks funding in research and development. 

However, Department of Science and innovation deputy director-general of technology innovation, Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, alluded to South aria’s role in developing vaccines may be underestimated, especially in light of finished vaccine produces having been developed by South African scientists. 

And now, with Soon-Shiong’s backing, the country’s potential might just be on the verge of being realised.

Additional reporting by Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

Frustration outside vaccine rollout point for healthcare workers

May 13th 2021 at 09:44

 

 

Many voiced frustration on Thursday after they were not able to get their vaccinations on Wednesday due to an influx of people at the facility. Some had been queuing for two days, and some from early in the morning.

South African biotech billionaire commits R3 billion for local production of COVID-19 vaccines

May 13th 2021 at 07:55
South African-American biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has committed an initial R3 billion to build out South Africa's capabilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

Do we really need vaccine influencers?

May 13th 2021 at 04:31

Do we need vaccine “influencers” in our lives? The question that is being raised is whether South Africans are reluctant to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or whether there is just a lack of information and vaccines themselves.

South Africa’s vaccine rollout, is going into its second phase next Monday, 17 May with the registered elderly over 60 years getting vaccinated.

There have been many complaints of slow rollout, lack of clarity and decision making by the government, as some citizens are hesitant to get vaccinated.

ALSO READ: At last, good news on vaccine front

The question is being asked of actress, writer and poet Lebogang Mashile, from TV show L’Attitude, who documented her vaccination.

I was very impressed by the level of care put into explaining the vaccination process to me by the health care workers. I was shown the vaccine, the batch number, and the expiry date. They also did a wonderful job at explaining the possible side effects that I could experience. pic.twitter.com/LGvv5dAgKP

— Lebogang Mashile (@lebomashile) May 12, 2021

When asked how she managed to “jump the queue” and why she was “influencing” people to get the vaccine, Mashile said she was not paid for tweets about the vaccine and wanted to educate people.

“I got the vaccine today so that I could speak from 1st hand experience about the process.”

My own mother is an elderly person with illnesses that make her vulnerable. I am not saying I deserve the vaccine more than her or any other vulnerable person. I got vaccinated so that I could speak about my experience with authority and support the work that is being done. https://t.co/xJqPQ2SjG2

— Lebogang Mashile (@lebomashile) May 12, 2021

She further said she was able to get vaccinated due to the expanded definition of a healthcare worker.

“I qualify as a communications partner to @Afri_Alliance. The definition also includes receptionists, gardeners, cleaning staff, & funeral workers in the health industry & more.”

Comedian Lesego Tlhabi, known as satirical comedian Coconut Kelz, tweeted: “We actually don’t need vaccine influencers right now lol. We need the vaccine. People aren’t not getting vaccinated because we aren’t influenced… we’re not getting vaccinated coz the government isn’t doing its job!”

The biggest concern of many is the lack of information and education about the vaccines, which may be the reason for the hesitancy.

Woke up to the news that more and more people are getting vaccinated at sites around Gauteng. This is wonderful!

It’s now 24 hours since my jab. Aside from a tiny bit of soreness in my arm, I have no symptoms. I’ll keep you posted. So far, so good.

— Lebogang Mashile (@lebomashile) May 13, 2021

Can’t believe we live in a society where vaccine “influencers” would be considered before vaccine information and education. https://t.co/woBEcZEvT5

— Tupac Chopra. (@Nomani__) May 12, 2021


In America, celebrities such as actors Blake Lively and husband Ryan Reynolds have been posting selfie jabs with nurses in the hope to demystify fake information about Covid-19 vaccines.

Reynolds hilariously posted: “Finally got 5G.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ryan Reynolds (@vancityreynolds)

Covid-19 Third Wave Latest: SA virus cases rising rapidly says DOH

May 12th 2021 at 15:45

South African has not yet hit the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic although the number of new cases is still rising rapidly the Deprment of Health announced in a statement on Wednesday night.


In its statement on rising cases the DOH said the South Africa has a daily surveillance system which monitors the key indicators for resurgence and the main indicators that are monitored are mainly daily positive cases; the positivity rate; which is the number of positive tests divided by the total tests done; hospital admissions and mortality

“For ease of comparison, we normally report on trends and we do the 7 day average as daily cases fluctuate and are hence not very useful,” the DOH said.

In the last reporting week (3-9 May 2021) the DOH noted the following:

  • There was an increase in new cases from 8 593 cases in the preceding seven days (26th April – 2nd May) to 12 531 cases in the last seven days (3rd – 9th May) constituting a 46% increase.
  • The 14-days comparisons also showed that the cases increased from 17 017 in the preceding 14 days to 21 124 cases in the last 14 days, an overall 24% increase.
  • All provinces showed a positive percentage increase with Northern Cape showing a 68% increase in the last 7 days followed by Gauteng at 63%, Limpopo at 47%, North West at 42% and Western Cape at 39%.
  • The new COVID-19 related deaths increased by 18,22% in the last 7 days (3 -9 May) to 318 from 269 in the preceding 7 days (26th April – 2nd May).
  • However, the 14-days comparison showed the deaths decreased by 28,93% to 587 in the last 14 days compared to 826 in the preceding 14 days.
  • The cumulative case fatality ratio is 3,43% (54 735/1 596 595). Eastern Cape (21%), Gauteng (20%), KwaZulu-Natal (19%) and Western Cape (21%) account for 81% of all reported deaths.
  • There were 25 health care workers who tested positive in the last 7 days (3rd – 9th May).

“Cumulatively, 56 059 HCW have tested positive, of these 14.35% (7 839/56 059) required admission, 6 881 (87,78%) have been discharged, and 83 are currently admitted. Health care workers constitute 3.51% of all cases of COVID-19 reported in the country. Accumulatively, a total of 874 deaths have been recorded among the health care workers,” the DOH said.

“Hospital admissions have not shown an increase. As much as these figures are worrying, our resurgence dashboard, which was developed by the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium, which is updated thrice a week, still shows that we have not reached a resurgence threshold though some districts in the country are fast approaching the threshold.”

Department of Health

The National Department of Health is working with provinces to update their resurgence plans to ensure that these are activated, and these plans mainly focus on the following:

  • Case management
  • Contact tracing.
  • Oxygen availability
  • Bed capacity (general beds and intensive care beds)
  • Respiratory support equipment
  • Human resources

“As the country we are on high alert and we know that the main drivers of the new wave will either be the resurgence of new variants and/or the fatigue from adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions. To counter these we are working closely with our genomic sequencing team to ensure that we are able to pick up the new variants earlier,” the DOH said.

“We want to assure South Africans that we have not yet hit the third wave however we are at risk and we hence need to be on heightened vigilance as a country.”

Deparment of Health

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

How SA companies are plugging the Pfizer jab storage hole

May 12th 2021 at 15:18

Industry players are confident South Africa can handle the mammoth task of distributing the 4.5 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.

This as concerns abound over the delicacy with which these doses have to be handled, as they require cold storage at -70 degrees celsius and each dose must be used on the day it is thawed.

For a country already challenged by a scattered rural population and sketchy power supply, some have suggested the two-dose vaccine may pose some logistical conundrums.

ALSO READ: Mkhize says SA already in third wave of Covid-19 pandemic – report

Virologist Jo Barnes has expressed concern that given the amount of vaccines that will have to reach rural areas, South Africa may not be acting fast enough to make sure that Pfizer vaccine doses won’t go to waste as a result of poor logistical planning.

“In India, there are whole villages wiped out by Covid-19 as a result of similar conditions. What makes the issue more urgent is that the Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose vaccine which requires storage at -70 degrees celsius. The real challenge will be making sure that distributors are able to deliver the second doses on time and to the same people two weeks later.”

At this stage, the Department of Health is the only buyer of vaccines into the country. Vaccines are stored at a central distribution warehouse near OR Tambo International Airport. Both the private and public sector will source the vaccine from the central distributor for distribution to registered providers for administration.

A number of multinationals which operate in South Africa’s logistics industry have now come to the fore with solutions at the ready.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa’s vaccine manufacturing plans not really feasible

Last month, DSV Healthcare, a division of logistics multinational DSV, announced it was awarded the tender from the Department of Health to distribute the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 mRNA vaccine to vaccination centres across South Africa. This tender is shared with The Biovac Institute, a public-private partnership.

The company will be using its existing infrastructure to provide the services alongside the department.

Managing director of DSV Healthcare, Anthony Diack, claimed the company had well-developed infrastructure and cold-chain capabilities and was up to the task.

“The extremely low temperatures at which the Pfizer vaccine needs to be handled are, of course, a challenge which supports the need for the appropriate cold chain capabilities and a well-developed certified distribution network”, said Diack.

“DSV has one of the largest GDP [Good Distribution Practices] compliant cold rooms in the Southern Hemisphere and has spent many years investing in South African infrastructure and developing these specialised handling skills for both 2°C-8°C and -7°C, so I am confident we can bring the vital doses to the communities safely and securely.”

ALSO READ: Covid-19 vaccine distribution – All in a day’s work says Biovac CEO

DSV has been approached by cold storage multinational Thermo King, which has developed specialised cold storage and transport units for Covid-19 vaccines.

The company’s head of sales transport cooling technologies, Mark Coetzee, said the company had been in contact with the Department of Health and various large pharmaceutical companies, presenting its full range of solutions.

“We have a container which is the only large container worldwide capable of maintaining temperatures of -70°C. This container has a self-contained generator that makes the unit fully operational in any conditions including remote areas without electricity,” said Coetzee.

“All our solutions use GPS technology where users can track and trace 24/7 the visibility and a variety of factors that impact the vaccine integrity, from door openings and temperature of the loads, thus demonstrate an audit trail of temperature compliance and asset security this information can be remotely monitored, and full reports generated.”

Now that the first two tranches of doses have arrived over the past week, samples are expected to be sent for testing at the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), followed by issuance of Stability Certification which will kick off the distribution of the first doses.

Regulatory concerns

Coetzee said regulations and international standards on cold storage needed to be met in order keep doses in the optimum environment.

“All our units are fully GDP and GMP verified and compliant according to EU regulations these regulations should be independently verified by qualified third-party specialist. This is to ensure that cooling units can maintain the correct temperature’s including humidity levels throughout the pharmaceutical product’s transportation,” he said.

These regulations are also stipulated according to the Medicines Control Council and apply to any pharmaceutical product that is required to be kept and transported at a specified temperature.

Unfortunately, he added, there were currently many companies in South Africa transporting pharmaceutical products in transport cooling units that did not meet these requirements, which could impact the efficacy of the products.

simnikiwe@citizen.co.za

Hundreds of thousands registered to get their Covid jabs next week

May 12th 2021 at 12:33

Hundreds of thousands of people have registered for vaccinations through the Electronic Vaccine Distribution System (EVDS) as well as various medical aid schemes.

This as the government gears up for phase two of its Covid-19 vaccine rollout, which will prioritise those over the age of 60.

ALSO READ: Mkhize says SA already in third wave of Covid-19 pandemic – report

Medical aid group Discovery said it had registered 300,000 of its members.

Discovery Health CEO Dr Ryan Noach said the company was in the process of registering medical scheme members on the tailored Discovery vaccination platform. This process is operating parallel to the Department of Health’s EVDS so members must register through both channels.

“In order to reach population immunity, we urge our clients to complete their vaccination registration on the Discovery portal when they receive their notification, and to register on EVDS when it becomes available to them. It is critically important to ensure that we get our elderly and high-risk individuals registered on EVDS and the Discovery Portal.”

ALSO READ: Pfizer not in favour of US patent waiver for vaccines

In Gauteng, where 1.3 million people are expected to take part in the second phase of the rollout, over 200,000 have registered through the EVDS. This as the province scrambles to complete phase one of the rollout, which is currently focused on healthcare workers.

Gauteng health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi oversaw the department’s visit to the registration call centre on Tuesday morning. The visit was part of the department’s drive to have as many eligible people registered before jabs are due at vaccination sites next week.

Gauteng provincial health spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said an announcement would be made at the end of this week regarding vaccination sites. This announcement would inform those who hd registered how they would get notified and what the plan would be in place on Monday, when phase two of the rollout begins.

“If you have registered and received your first message as an indication of registration, don’t panic you will be communicated with so that you get proper information on how you’re going to be vaccinated. Another emphasis is that not all the vaccination sites will be activated at the same time, the sites will work in phases.”

This is so that government can monitor the response of the first week and consider the number of vaccines at the province’s disposal. According to Mokgethi, there are 21 vaccination sites across the province, located in five districts that will be giving vaccines to the elderly.

ALSO READ: All provinces say they’re ready for Monday’s Phase 2 vaccine rollout

“We don’t want to vaccinate in all the sites all at once, we want to start small and then expand. Even with the J&J Sisonke study, we started at Bara [Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital] and expanded because as you meet challenges then you learn how to address those but at the end we will expand because we have a total of more than 280 sites that will be used for vaccination sites.”

In the Free State, the government has identified 97 sites which are currently undergoing verification assessment.

Technical teams are expected to hand the sites over by Friday in order to get them ready for vaccination of the 60-plus year olds by next Monday.

“As part of phase one, we have vaccinated 20,697 healthcare workers and have expanded the vaccination drive of Sisonke for healthcare workers to include healthcare workers in private [sector] and NGOs, traditional healers, funeral undertakers,” says Free State health department spokesperson Mondli Mvambi.

“We have begun communicating with our multi-disciplinary stakeholders within our intergovernmental relations arrangements, [namely] social development, Sassa [SA Social Security Agency], libraries, small business, community networks including municipalities, NGOs, faith-based organisations, councillors and ward committees, community health workers to ensure reaching older persons in all sectors.”

Rural towns were being targeted through established networks including agriculture and farming organisations, and rural health mobile outreach networks.

Covid-19 Vaccine Latest: Record number of health workers vaccinated

May 11th 2021 at 17:11

The chaotic queues of people lining the street to get the Covid-19 vaccine at St Augustines hospital on Tuesday were as a result of an “overwhelming response” from health care workers to a call to come forward for the jab.

This was according to national co-principal investigator of the Sisonke Study and head of vaccines and pathogenesis research at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa), Dr Nigel Garrett, who said the Covid-19 vaccine study ends on Friday 14 May.

Health care workers who queued all day for the vaccine had earlier questioned whether the call to staff to arrive as “walk-ins” without appointments was a fake news message circulating on social media, but turns out this is not the case.

“The research teams from Caprisa and the SAMRC (SA Medical Research Council) have been implementing the Sisonke study across all districts of Kwazulu-Natal, and are currently vaccinating in Hlabisa, Dundee, Ixopo and in Durban,” he said.

“The demand in Durban has remained high, and we received a phenomenal turnout at the St Augustine’s Hospital vaccination site – an indication that HCWs are still very keen to get their vaccines. As previously planned, the definition of HCWs has been expanded from patient facing to include other health care personnel working in clinic settings, including hospitals, clinics and pharmacies,” Garrett said.

He said that HCWs who want to join the Covid-19 vaccine study must  register on the electronic vaccination data system, grant their consent to participate in the study and receive a voucher for vaccination. 

“Due to limited vaccine availability, vaccination sites have been working on a booking appointment to serve both private, public and out of hospital HCWs. As planned, in the final week we were able to offer vaccinations to additional HCWs due to an additional supply for KZN,” Garrett said.

“We could therefore offer a limited walk-in service. HCWs are welcome to attend provided that they have entered their information and have an official letter from their place of employment confirming their employment as a health care worker.  Staff at the site are assisting those who do not have vouchers to obtain one, as no-one can be vaccinated without a voucher,” he said.

Garret said staff at the site were doing their best to manage the Covid-19 vaccine processes to be Covid-19 compliant, although the large number of arrivals had been challenging. 

“On Monday 10th May a new vaccination site record was set when a record 1828 doses were administered at St Augustine’s,” Garrett said.

Who is eligible for Sisonke

 The National Department of Health defines “all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health” as health workers. This includes all health personnel who are currently working in any Department of Health office or registered public and private health facility (hospital, clinic, laboratory, pharmacy, care facility) or who provide health services at a community level on behalf of the public or private sector. Sisonke is open to all administrative and support staff in the health system including staff from multilateral or global agencies involved in healthcare delivery, community health workers, care home workers, funeral workers and registered traditional health practitioners. Source: https://www.samrc.ac.za/media-release/calling-all-health-personnel-come-forward-enrolment-last-week-sisonke-phase-3-b-study

Daily Covid-19 update: 1548 cases recorded as death toll approaches 55k

May 11th 2021 at 16:07

As of Tuesday 11 May 2021, the cumulative number of detected Covid-19 cases is 1,599,272, with 1548 new cases recorded, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed.

71 more Covid-19 related deaths were reported, with 3 from Eastern Cape, 23 from Free State, 16 from Gauteng, 5 from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), 0 from Limpopo, 0 from Mpumalanga, 0 from North West, 16 from Northern Cape and 8 from Western Cape.

ALSO READ: Vaccine tourism: Here’s three countries you can get a Covid-19 jab

This brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 54,896.

Recoveries now stand at 1,519,258 representing a recovery rate of 95%.

A total of 10,931,906 tests have been completed with 26,075 new tests conducted since the last report.

Meanwhile, the total number of vaccines that have been administered stands at 414,372.

#COVID19 UPDATE: A total of 26 075 tests were conducted in the last 24 hrs, with 1 548 new cases, which represents a 5.9% positivity rate. A further 71 #COVID19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 54 896 to date. Read more here https://t.co/aJ8bcrT2Wm pic.twitter.com/kwzDo0JOUq

— NICD (@nicd_sa) May 11, 2021

SIU probing nearly half of government’s entire PPE spend

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing alleged corrupt personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts worth R14.2 billion – close to half of the money spent by government on PPE procurement since Covid-19 landed on SA shores.

Last year, after a spate of PPE related corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa tasked the SIU to investigate Covid-19 related corruption.

Vaccine tourism: Here’s three countries you can get a Covid-19 jab

May 11th 2021 at 11:01

South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout hasn’t exactly been the world’s fastest or smoothest and phase two of the project is only set to commence next week, with those over 60 to be vaccinated.

For the rest of the country hoping to get on with their lives without fear, there are two options. Wait until your turn is finally announced several months from now, or turn your vaccine experience into a holiday.

This is obviously not available to everyone, but those with time and money to travel do have options how and where they get vaccinated against Covid-19. Some countries have embraced vaccine tourism as a way to help their economies from recover the effects of the pandemic, offering some special trips for those hoping to get the jab while on holiday.

USA, Israel, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries which have banned or restricted travelers from South Africa since the discovery of the Covid-19 strain 501Y.V2. SA has been flagged a risk by many European Union countries including Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland.

Global vaccination tracker

Graphic: Costa Mokola

But there are some countries The Citizen has found that allow you to enter and pay for a vaccination.

Zimbabwe

A return flight to Zimbabwe from South Africa can cost you R3,509 – R4,319,  or you can make a road trip of it if you are willing to brave the border posts.

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is estimated to have lost $1bn in revenue last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the government-approved initiative of vaccinating tourists at a cost could see some revival in this sector.

Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa told journalists while Zimbabweans get vaccinated for free, foreigners can get the vaccine at a cost.

Zimbabwe reopened its international airports and land borders to tourists in addition to Zimbabwean nationals and valid residence permit holders on 1 December 2020.

Also Read: Zimbabwe beats SA to the vaccine jab

As a tourist you must produce a negative Covid-19 test result issued no more than 48 hours before arrival at the border. You will be denied entry if you do not produce a negative test result or if you exhibit Covid-19 like symptoms on arrival. In this case you may be detained at a holding facility where you will be required to pay US$60 for a test.

Travelers will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine period. Self isolation is an option if you arrive with a negative Covid-19 test issued within 48 hours of arrival, or test negative at the airport.

If you test positive for Covid-19 at the airport, you will be detained at a place of isolation for 14 days. You have to complete track and trace information on arrival in Zimbabwe.

The Maldives

Another country attempting to boost its tourism sector by offering vaccines is the island nation of the Maldives.

The south Asian country recently announced plans to offer tourists the Covid-19 vaccine. Maldivian Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom told CNBC the initiative, dubbed the 3V plan (Visit, Vaccinate, Vacation), was designed as an incentive for tourists to visit the country.

A single Qatar Airways flight leaving next week from OR Tambo International Airport costs R8,252, but if you want to make an event of it, you can opt to fly business class for a cool R34,617.

Inbound travelers, with the exception of children under one year, have to produce a PCR negative result with a sample taken 96 hours prior to their departure for the Maldives, including those who are vaccinated.

PCR negative test results must be attached to the online Traveler Health Declaration (THD) form which has to be submitted within 24 hours prior to departure.

Cuba

A flight to Havana, Cuba costs upward of R14,821. As a tourist, A PCR test will be administered on arrival and you’ll be transferred to a designated centre similar to a hotel. A second PCR test will be taken on day 5 of isolation and isolation is required until the second result is confirmed.

If you test positive, you have to follow the instructions of the health officials. All testing and quarantine costs will be at the traveler’s cost.

Proof of a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours prior to departure is required in order to be allowed into the country, along with a completed declaration of health.

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

 

All provinces say they’re ready for Monday’s Phase 2 vaccine rollout

May 11th 2021 at 06:01

Provinces have six days to prepare for the second phase of the Covid-19 vaccination programme rollout as concerns abound that a third wave of infections is already in motion in pockets of the country.

VACCINE REGISTRATION
Government calls on citizens 60 years and older to register for their COVID-19 vaccination.
You can now register on the COVID Whatsapp number by sending “REGISTER” to 0600123456.
You can also register by SMS by dialing *134*832*your ID number#. pic.twitter.com/e6hc6YZRQl

— Department of Agriculture, Land Ref and Rural Dev (@DALRRDgov_ZA) May 10, 2021

Western Cape

The Western Cape is the first to officially announce its readiness with the launch of an awareness drive. The campaign is for eligible people to register for the Covid-19 vaccine. The provincial government plans to vaccinate just more than 5 million people.

Western Cape health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo says the province is ready to begin vaccinations for the elderly next week.

“The vaccination programme is countrywide and we understand that other provinces will also commence on 17 May. As the Western Cape government, we are doing whatever we can to ensure that as many people register for the vaccine and then get the vaccine so that we can finally defeat Covid-19. That is why I am urging all stakeholders to help spread the vaccine registration message.” Mbombo said

Also Read: ‘Current vaccination pace, it will take over 10 years for SA to reach herd immunity’

Gauteng

Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana says the province is still wrapping up phase 1 of its vaccine roll out and expects to begin phase 2 next week.

“The roll out will begin with people over the age of 60 years, followed by people aged 40 to 59 and also people in congregate settings,” Kekana said.

“Our community healthcare workers will ensure they have a database of people who will need to be vaccinated at home and mobile teams will be sent to those people. So far, 94,612 public and private sector healthcare workers have been vaccinated.”

Limpopo

In Limpopo, health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba will today launch the Covid-19 vaccination programme of traditional health practitioners ahead of the start of its Phase 2 roll out.

Also Read: Daily Covid-19 update: India variant has been now detected in SA

Ramathuba’s spokesperson Thilivhali Muavha says Phase 1 in the province was completed last week for private and public sector healthcare workers. This included healthcare facility staff with high exposure such as security guards.

Muavha said the first phase of the provincial roll out went relatively smoothly but there were some logistical hiccups in distributing vaccines to various districts.

“One of the problems we experienced in the remote areas was a lack of network coverage because the process requires you to be connected to the internet so we had to improvise.”

Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba’s strategy involved ensuring the number of vaccines sent to each site matched the exact number of registered vaccine recipients. This was to avoid doses wastage, says Muavha.

Also Read: Ramaphosa’s vaccine manufacturing plans not really feasible

Going into the next phase in Limpopo will present unique challenges for Limpopo which is populated by impoverished communities in far flung areas. The provincial health department plans to combat this by training and recruiting community-based caregivers and healthcare workers to distribute the vaccines at designated sites. It is not clear if this plan includes home vaccinations for disabled or otherwise immobile residents.

On Monday, Ramathuba convened a meeting with traditional leaders to ensure community buy in and to assist with her education and awareness drive.

“As we anticipate the third wave of Covid-19, we continue to urge our people not to drop their guard. Covid-19 is still with us. Continue to wear your mask, wash your hands with soap or use alcohol based sanitiser, keep your social distance and avoid crowded areas” Ramathuba said.

Last week, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed the first cases of the highly infectious Indian variant of Covid-19. Two cases were from Gauteng and two from KwaZulu-Natal.

KwaZulu-Natal

KZN health department spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said registration for phase 2 began on 16 April for the commencement of vaccinations on 17 May. The department roped in community health workers to support the elderly with registration and will also be using its Sukuma Sakhe community structures to support registration.

Also Read: Two patients die in Limpopo hospital Covid-19 ward fire

Other departments have also chipped in to support the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) process using personnel including agricultural extension officers and traditional leaders.

“School health teams are visiting schools teaching the teachers so they can teach the school children about registration on EVDS. A senior citizen group has been engaged to mobilise the elderly to register.”

People can register manually or through the internet using any device such as a cellphone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer. If citizens wish to register online, they can do so on vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za or visit the South African government website. For people who cannot register online, they can use the manual system by filling in a registration form obtainable from health facilities and South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) sites.

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

 

 

Ramaphosa’s vaccine manufacturing plans not really feasible

May 11th 2021 at 04:24

South Africa is still in its infancy when it comes to being able to develop and manufacture vaccines, despite leading the charge on the continent.

The government’s ambitions to see large-scale local production of vaccines relies heavily on a proposed agreement among developers to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and medicines in poor countries.

In his weekly statement this Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa plans to rapidly scale up local production of its Covid-19 vaccines if the proposal supported by South Africa, India and the US is accepted at the World Trade Organisation.

Nowhere near ready

According to Jeff Dorfman, associate professor of the Division of Medical Virology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa could not have been ready to produce vaccines in meaningful quantities in the time it has had.

Also Read: Ramaphosa: Vaccines must be available to all, not just highest bidders

“This capacity was not pushed quite early enough for us to be in the game already and make a difference now,” he said.

Local vaccine manufacturers and distributor Biovac announced a partnership earlier this year to produce a vaccine made by life sciences company ImmunityBio that is still in the early stages of testing.

Hope for South Africa entering the global vaccine manufacturing sector in earnest also lies in the multibillion-rand agreement that will see Aspen Pharmacare produce more than 300 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the next three years from the former’s specialised plant in Gqebera, Eastern Cape.

But as Ndlovu Care Group CEO Dr Hugo Tempelman points out, this activity will only deal with the packaging of the product. He suggests venturing into full scale production may be seen as too risky an investment in South Africa.

‘If you look at Aspen, for example, and its deal with Johnson & Johnson in Port Elizabeth, the material for the vaccine production is not made here. The bottling and creation of the vials is done here. But even with just that, the estimated R4.5 billion that will be invested will probably be one of the largest investments in pharmaceuticals we have seen in a long time, if not ever.’

Also Read: Ramaphosa welcomes US support for Covid-19 vaccine waiver

Lack of funding

According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa is one of only five countries on the continent with local vaccine production capacity. Upstream production on the continent is low and most local companies’ activities are limited to packaging the finished product.

Professor Robert Bragg of the University of the Free State’s school of Microbial Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, suggests South Africa does have some capacity for producing vaccines as has been demonstrated in the local production of paediatric vaccines, but a lack of funding in the research and development stage is an important hindrance.

“The company, Biovac, also has vaccine manufacturing capabilities, but is limited in its ability to produce cell culture-based vaccines. It is  geared to bacterial based or yeast based vaccines. All of the current Covid-19 based vaccines are cell culture based,” says Bragg.

Bragg is part of a research group that has a patented yeast-based expression system. In March 2020 the team had already designed the genes for expression of the Covid-19 virus in their expressions system.

Also Read:Covid-19 vaccine distribution – All in a day’s work says Biovac CEO

“The design of the genes for SARS-CoV-2 was based on the work we did with the avian coronavirus. We attempted to publish this work in March 2020, but one of the reviewers requested that we first express the genes before we could publish. Due to a lack of funding we could not move forward to the expression of these genes. We have only been able to scrape some funding together to start on this work in 2021.”

According to Bragg, the university also has a project on the expression of the South African variant of SARS-CoV-2 and the Wuhan strain in order to first show proof of concept so it can move forward on its discussions with a local vaccine manufacturer.

As soon as proof of concept has been demonstrated with the two strains being researched, Bragg says it would be relatively easy to roll out the technology for other variant SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

What is stopping us?

Tempelman traces South Africa’ s local vaccine manufacturing to the last decades of apartheid when South Africa was eventually forced by a global sanctions to produce paediatric vaccines.

Investment in the sector shifted heavily away from manufacturing when those sanctions were lifted.

“When the transition happened a lot of those investments were not being made any more and we did not keep up with developments,” says Tempelman.

“What is hampering development now is the tendering system. You need the infrastructure and the knowledge to  develop vaccines. Knowledge is there, but there is no infrastructure. If you want to develop a vaccine that you can only secure a two-year contract from the Department of Health for a certain line of production, then the risk of not being able to continue afterwards is too high.”

SA’s overall contribution to the vaccine race being underestimated

Criticism of South Africa’ s lack of investment in vaccine development and manufacturing, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, may not take into account how much South Africa already contributes to the global vaccine race. So suggests Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, deputy director-general of technology innovation at the Department of Science and Innovation.

He suggests that South Africa’s role in the development of Covid-19 vaccines may be underestimated, because many of the finished products arriving in SA have been developed with the help of South Africa’s leading scientists during various stages of the process.

“For example, we talk about the Pfizers and Astra Zenecas of this world, but the reality that some overlook is the infrastructure with which these companies manufacture vaccines is not necessarily theirs and in many instances, it is government infrastructure,” he says.

“So what people are talking about with this whole concept of vaccine nationalism fails to recognise there are various steps involved in the development and manufacturing of a vaccine. Making sure that it is working and registered is done by multiple players.”

Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

Register for a COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa via WhatsApp or SMS

May 10th 2021 at 08:12
The National Department of Health has launched COVID-19 vaccine registration portals on WhatsApp, USSD, and SMS in South Africa.

Italian woman gets six doses of Pfizer vaccine in error

May 10th 2021 at 07:25

A 23-year-old Italian woman was under observation in a hospital in Tuscany after receiving six doses of the Pfizer vaccine in error, news agency AGI reported Monday.

The woman was in good condition after receiving fluids and paracetamol following the injection Sunday, AGI reported.

Instead of injecting just one dose into the arm of the student, a nurse mistakenly injected the entire vial, the equivalent of six doses.

Previous studies to test overdoses of the Pfizer vaccine were limited to four doses, AGI wrote.

The incident has been reported to Italy’s medicine regulator.

Overdoses of the Pfizer vaccine have previously been reported in the United States, Australia, Germany and Israel.

Vaccines come early! Mkhize reveals Pfizer jabs will start ‘ahead of schedule’

May 10th 2021 at 03:25

There’s some much, much needed good news about the mass vaccination programme set to begin in South Africa this month: Millions of Pfizer vaccines are being distributed across the country over the next few days – and the jabs could be rolled out TWO DAYS ahead of schedule, according to Zweli Mkhize.

When will the vaccines be made available?

The Health Minister has confirmed that the ball is properly rolling now that the Pfizer supply has arrived in SA. Following a myriad of delays, hiccups, and ‘out-of-date’ vaccines, the transition from immunising healthcare workers to members of the general public is now likely to start on Saturday 15 May – rather than Monday 17 May, as previously stated.

“The issues around the vaccine is that we expect that the vaccines we received from Pfizer will be distributed after the quality control processes are completed. From the 12th and 13th, they (the vaccines) will be distributed in the different provinces. These provinces will start vaccination around the Saturday 15 May or so.” | Zweli Mkhize

Ramaphosa warns against ‘vaccination apartheid’

The second phase of the country’s vaccination programme is set to prioritise persons over 60 and those with underlying medical conditions. Some 16.5 million people will receive their inoculations in Stage 2 of the rollout. Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa has encouraged other countries to share surplus jabs, and waiver patents for vaccines

“The enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to research and development and innovation in the quest for human progress. But our position is that such a waiver is necessary at this time. This is an unprecedented situation. It requires that all intellectual property, knowledge, and data related to COVID-19 be put at the disposal of all.”
 
“If we as the international community are truly committed to human rights and the values of equality and non-discrimination, vaccines should be viewed as a global public good. A situation in which the populations of rich countries are safely inoculated while millions in poorer countries die in the queue would be vaccine apartheid.”

  • You can read his full statement here:

As a nation, we must stand united in our effort to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines to save lives and proceed with the national recovery. Our commitment to putting human lives first does not diminish our commitment to honour international trade agreements. https://t.co/qyqjySMbfv pic.twitter.com/XdI9H7vmhM

— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) May 10, 2021

Alan Winde: All systems go for Western Cape vaccine roll-out

May 10th 2021 at 00:54

The Western Cape government is on track to vaccinate more than 5 million residents, under Phase 2 of its COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, Premier Alan Winde has said.

His comments come as national government’s own inoculation plans raise more questions than answers and raise doubt as to whether the overall target of more than 40 million South Africans, will be met, at least on time. So far, over 382 000 jabs have been administered to healthcare workers across the country, however Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has said they’d soon be ramping things up.

“To ensure a prompt start to the vaccine programme in the Western Cape, Pfizer vaccines will be used for the remaining healthcare workers (Phase 1b) and for the start of Phase 2 (60 years or older). This programme will gain momentum by the end of May, as the Johnson and Johnson vaccines become available,” Winde said in a statement on Sunday evening, 9 May 2021.

“As a province, vaccine distribution will take place each month to ensure coverage of 5 076 130 people. By May, we anticipate the receipt of 260 000 of the single dose J&J vaccine and 135 600 of the two dose Pfizer to provide a total of 395 600 vaccines”

Premier Alan Winde

COVID-19 in Western Cape: Nearly 5 000 vaccinators trained for roll-out

Premier Alan Winde further said that as of 5 May, a total of 4935 vaccinators had registered for training in the Western Cape, of which 2891 have already completed their training.

“While we move towards Phase 2, it is important to note that Phase 1 is still underway. To date, 68 222 of the 90 840 doses for healthcare workers have been administered. It is anticipated that we will cover more than 60% of health care workers with the limited doses being received via the Sisonke Programme,” Winde said.

The premier has urged people in the province to register to be vaccinated, saying it was the only way to eventually  build up herd immunity and finally defeat the respiratory virus.

“The most important priority in the short term is getting all those residents 60 years old and older registered. This group is at high risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death, and the vaccine will save lives,” Winde said.

“COVID-19 has caused so much loss over the last year. It’s time that we fight back by getting a safe, tested and effective vaccine”

EU seals deal for extra 1.8 billion BioNTech/Pfizer doses

May 8th 2021 at 10:19

The EU has concluded a deal with BioNTech/Pfizer for up to 1.8 billion extra doses of their Covid-19 vaccine, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday.

“Happy to announce that the EU Commission has just approved a contract for guaranteed 900 million doses (+900 million options) with BioNTech/Pfizer for 2021-2023,” she tweeted from an EU summit in Portugal.

“Other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow,” she promised.

The contract, on top of the 600 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses the commission has already secured, aims to supply the bloc – population 450 million – with enough jabs for booster shots, the EU said.

 

 

 

They could also expand vaccination to minors and for exports to lower-income countries outside the EU, it added.

Von der Leyen has said that the mRNA technology used by BioNTech/Pfizer and other vaccine-makers has proven safe and effective.

BioNTech of Germany and Pfizer of the United States have stepped up supply Europe with their jointly produced doses, and their vaccine is currently the main one being used in the EU.

EU rollout accelerating

Others in the EU vaccine portfolio include those from AstraZeneca — which delivered far below the quantities it had promised, and whose jab has been tarnished by a link to very rare blood clots — as well as from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

After a slow start, the EU’s vaccination rollout has greatly picked up speed, with more than a quarter of its population having received at least one jab.

The 27-nation bloc is on track to have 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated by late July, and is already cautiously reopening ahead of its vital summer vacation period.

Von der Leyen has stood by the EU strategy of her Commission being responsible for negotiating vaccine contracts for all member countries, despite early criticism that rollout was too slow.

 

 

 

Europe is now debating with the United States over whether lifting patents on Covid vaccines could boost supplies to poorer countries.

The EU has so far sent more than 200 million doses to non-EU countries, while the United States has dispatched just 2.7 million to Mexico in what it describes as a “loan”.

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted that “Europe’s role in the world is more critical today than ever as we fight Covid-19,” adding that it “shows when we collaborate on common causes we are stronger together”.

The European Union is major contributor to Covax, a WHO-backed facility designed to get doses to mainly lower-income countries.

Virus deaths top 4,000 in India as pope calls for patent waivers

May 8th 2021 at 10:14

New Covid-19 deaths surged past 4,000 for the first time in India on Saturday in one of the world’s worst outbreaks, as the pope called for patent waivers to “allow universal access to the vaccine.”

The call for waivers has gained momentum after the United States announced its surprise support for such a scheme to enable adequate vaccine supplies to fight the raging pandemic.

India now accounts for nearly half of the world’s new known cases according to an AFP database, and it reported a national record 4,187 new deaths Saturday.

New Delhi has struggled to contain the outbreak, which has overwhelmed its healthcare system and sparked public anger over mismanagement.

“The government says that there is ample supply of medicines and oxygen,” said Brijesh Pandey, who spends hours every day jostling with others to try to secure oxygen for his brother-in-law.

“But look how hundreds of desperate people are struggling to save their brothers, sisters and parents.”

 

 

 

India reported more than 400,000 new infections on Saturday, but many experts suspect the official death and case numbers are a gross underestimate.

The surge has spilled into next-door Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Its eastern neighbour Pakistan began a nine-day shutdown targeting travel and tourist hot spots to try to stop its outbreak from snowballing during the upcoming Eid celebrations at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Eid holidays usually see a mass movement of people across the nation of 220 million, and the government has mobilised the military to help enforce the restrictions.

‘Closed nationalism’

But mosques, which have been packed each night throughout Ramadan, will remain open despite the virus threat.

Pope Francis on Saturday expressed his backing for “universal access to the vaccine and the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights”, condemning the “virus of individualism” that “makes us indifferent to the suffering of others”.

“A variant of this virus is closed nationalism, which prevents, for example, an internationalism of vaccines,” he said.

“Another variant is when we put the laws of the market or intellectual property above the laws of love and the health of humanity.”

The global arsenal against the coronavirus expanded as the vaccine from China’s Sinopharm became the first fully non-Western shot to get the green light from the World Health Organization.

 

 

 

The WHO has already given emergency use authorisation to vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, a status that paves the way for countries to quickly approve and import shots.

Sinopharm is already in use in 42 territories around the world, including Pakistan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Serbia.

The European Union meanwhile said it had sealed a deal with BioNTech/Pfizer for up to 1.8 billion extra doses of its Covid-19 vaccine.

“Other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow,” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said.

The United States this week backed a push led by the WHO, India and South Africa to waive Covid-19 vaccine patent protections to boost supply to poorer nations.

The European Union on Saturday pressed the US for a concrete proposal and a commitment to export much-needed jabs.

Worries about Tokyo Olympics

Rapid vaccine rollouts worldwide are considered critical in the fight against the virus, which has killed 3.26 million people so far, and some countries with high immunisation rates such as Britain are already easing restrictions and testing events with large gatherings again.

But concerns are swirling about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, with Japan’s vaccination programme moving slowly.

A coronavirus state of emergency in parts of Japan, including Tokyo, was extended on Friday with authorities warning of some hospitals being overwhelmed.

The pandemic has already disrupted test events for the Olympics, with several postponed, cancelled or moved abroad.

But International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates was adamant Saturday that the Games will go ahead despite the risks.

Asked by AFP if there was any scenario in which the event, due to start on July 23, could be cancelled or postponed again, he replied: “No, there’s not.”

Editorial: Covid-19 vs ANC palace politics

May 6th 2021 at 15:00
By: Eyaaz

Our way of life is still far from finding its “new normal” and we aren’t getting any closer, while palace politics once again take centre stage as we head to October’s local elections

The post Editorial: Covid-19 vs ANC palace politics appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

Pfizer not in favour of US patent waiver for vaccines

May 6th 2021 at 13:50

Brussels – Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Thursday said he was against a US-backed proposal to waive patents on Covid-19 vaccines and that production should be ramped up in existing facilities instead.

In an interview with AFP, Bourla said his company, which developed its vaccine with German firm BioNTech, was “not at all” in favour of the call from the United States to waive patent protections for coronavirus jabs.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa welcomes US support for Covid-19 vaccine waiver

The widely praised move by the US announced on Wednesday is seen by proponents as a way to boost production in developing countries that so far have received far fewer jabs.

But Bourla, reflecting the pharmaceutical industry’s long held position, insisted patents are not the main roadblocks to more production and that building new plants would be counterproductive.

“We should focus our efforts in what we can build right now, that is enough capacity to produce billions of doses,” he said.

“The problem is that there are no facilities in the world outside the ones that we can build ourselves, that can make mRNA vaccines,” he said, referring to type of Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Bourla cautioned firmly against disrupting current operations “with politically motivated announcements.”

“They are empty promises,” he added.

Earlier, BioNTech pointed to issues ranging from the set up of manufacturing sites to the sourcing of raw materials, to the availability of qualified personnel that were holding up the process.

The German government on Thursday also stressed the importance of keeping patent protections intact after the EU said it was open to looking into the idea.

“The protection of intellectual property is a source of innovation and must remain so in the future,” a government spokeswoman said.

MPs grill Cyril over ‘senseless’ Covid-19 vaccination plan

May 6th 2021 at 11:57

Government’s “slow” and “senseless” Covid-19 vaccination plan has come under a barrage of criticism from members of Parliament (MPs) during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s question and answer session on Thursday.

ALSO READ: Jets before jabs: Latest SAA bailout takes from Covid-19 vaccines

The president was fielding questions about, among others, the brand and quantity of the Covid-19 vaccines that government had procured thus far, the vaccine price tag, and vaccines approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).

EFF chief whip Floyd Shavambu said according to their estimate, it would cost a minimum of R50 billion to vaccinate 7% of the population, and that Treasury had allocated R4.3 billion for the entire vaccine rollout.

“The vaccine plan does not make any sense…You are saying you are going to vaccinate 41 million South Africans, when you have only allocated R4.3 billion? And do not tell us about the contingency budget because contingency budgets are allocated for things not foreseen. We have known for more than 12 months about this pandemic that requires intervention,” he charged.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen went for the jugular and asked Ramaphosa if he was going to take responsibility for the lives already lost to Covid-19, saying the ANC was occupied by its own battles when people were dying.

He said other countries were nearly finished with their vaccination programme, while SA had yet to vaccinate a single private citizen, and only managed to vaccinate just over 300,000 healthcare workers in months.

“SA’s current ranking for Covid-19 vaccine administered is 33, not in the world but in Africa. That is after Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia and Zambia… Yes people are angry because you have failed them. Do you take responsibility for the life lost due to failure?” Steenhuisen asked.

But the president kept his cool, despite the EFF heckling him and casting aspersions on his legitimacy after the so-called suspension by the suspended secretary genera Ace Magashule.

Ramaphosa said the delays were as a result of protracted negotiations with manufacturers, drug availability and ensuring that contracts with manufacturers were consistent with SA laws.

He said the government would pull out all the stops to provide funding for the vaccination programme, even if it meant Finance Minister Tito Mboweni returning to Parliament to table a supplementary budget.

“We are not going to sacrifice the lives of SA in relation to this pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.

He said they had finalised a contract for the supply of 31 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines and that, as a continent, through the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, finalised an agreement for a 220-million doses for the rest of the continent.

He said from Pfizer they had an agreement for 20 million doses, with additional allocation from Covax of nearly 1.4 million Pfizer doses that arrived this week.

ALSO READ: 300,000 Pfizer vaccines arrive in South Africa

“Negotiations with manufacturers were protracted, we also have to ensure terms of contracts were consistent with our laws and not detrimental to the national interest. We also had to set up a no-fault compensation scheme through which those who experience severe adverse results following vaccination can claim damages.

“We have finalised contracts for sufficient doses to vaccinate 41.1 million. The estimated times for the delivery of the vaccines depend on several factors, many of which are beyond our control,” Ramaphosa added.

Vaccine Delivery Schedule:

  • Second quarter (2021): Three million J&J doses, 4.5 million Pfizer doses, and 1.4 million Pfizer doses through the Covax facility.
  • Third quarter: 9.1 million J&J doses, 8.5 million Pfizer doses.
  • Fourth quarter: 19.9 million J&J doses and seven million Pfizer doses.

In total, SA will receive 31.2 million J&J doses and 21.4 million Pfizer doses, including form Covax facility.

siphom@citizen.co.za

Covid-19 Vaccine: Wits trial results published in New England Journal

May 6th 2021 at 07:30

Results from the initial primary analysis of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine trial conducted by Wits VIDA in South Africa have been published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Wits University announced in a statement on Thursday that the NEJM, recognised as the world’s leading medical journal, had published the findings of the Phase 2b clinical trial conducted at Wits University in South Africa. The article was published on 5 May.

Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology, co-author of the study, and the Director of the Vaccines & Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (Wits VIDA), led the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine trial in SA.

The published data provided additional detail of an initial analysis conducted in January, while more robust data from a complete analysis of the study was shared in March 2021.

Publication of initial primary analysis highlights cross-protection by the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine against the B.1.351 variant prevalent in South Africa during the study.

This is the first published study to show protection against mild Covid-19 caused by the B.1.351 variant circulating in South Africa.

An updated analysis of the study indicated 100% protection against severe Covid-19 due to the B.1.351 variant.

“An efficacy of 50% is sufficient to meet the World Health Organization criteria for regulatory approval of the vaccine,” Madhi said.

The Novavax Covid-19 vaccine, known as NVX-CoV2373, is made by Novavax, Inc, a US-based biotechnology company developing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases.

Gregory M. Glenn, M.D., President of Research and Development at Novavax, said: “This data publication reinforces the encouraging safety profile and cross-protective effect across variants seen in studies of our vaccine to-date.”

About the study

The Phase 2b randomised, observer-blinded, placebo-controlled trial conducted in South Africa evaluated the efficacy, safety and immunogenicity in healthy adults, and in a small cohort of medically stable adults living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The study met its primary endpoint – i.e., the Novavax vaccine demonstrated an overall efficacy of 49% in the initial analysis (published in NEJM), and 49% in the subsequent complete analysis (unpublished).

Among healthy adults without HIV, the Novavax vaccine demonstrated efficacy of 60% in the initial analysis, and 55% in the subsequent complete analysis.

In the initial analysis, cases were predominantly mild-to-moderate and due to the B.1.351 variant that dominates in South Africa, and increasingly in southern Africa.

In the subsequent complete analysis, circulation of the B.1.351 variant continued to dominate, and all five cases of severe disease observed in the trial occurred in the placebo group.

The initial analysis, now published in NEJM, suggested that prior infection with the original Covid-19 strain did not protect against subsequent infection by the variant predominantly circulating in South Africa through 60 days of follow-up. However, with additional follow-up, the complete analysis of the South Africa trial indicates that there may be a modest protective effect of prior exposure with the original Covid-19 strain.

Among placebo recipients, at 90 days of follow-up, the illness rate was 8.0% in baseline seronegative participants and 5.9% in baseline seropositive participants.

“The data make a compelling case for use of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine in settings where the B.1.351 variant dominates – which is most of southern Africa – to reduce the risk of mild disease and also to maximise the opportunity for protection against severe Covid. Further work is required for Novavax and all other Covid-19 vaccines, particularly in people living with HIV,” Madhi said.

The Novavax Covid-19 vaccine trial is one of two Covid-19 vaccine trials in South Africa led by Madhi and Wits VIDA, with the other being the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trial.  

In addition to directing Wits VIDA, Madhi is Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), and co-Director of African Leadership in Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE).

Just in: US backs COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property waiver

May 5th 2021 at 16:36

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his administration’s support for a global waiver on patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines. The terms will be negotiated with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in due course.

While intellectual property rights for businesses are important, Washington “supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she added.

Biden had been under intense pressure from world leaders to agree to waive protections for vaccine manufacturers in order to ramp up production and get the jabs out to more countries as rich nations have swept up the majority of the doses.

Tai said the United States will participate in the negotiations within the World Trade Organization but cautioned that discussions “will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

The global trade body has for months been facing calls led by India and South Africa  to temporarily remove the intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines, in a move proponents say would help boost production in developing countries that so far have received far fewer jabs. 

But that notion has until now met fierce opposition from pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, which insist the patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production, and warn the move could hamper innovation.

WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been pressing for an international agreement to provide at least a temporary patent waiver.

“We need to have a sense of urgency on how we approach this issue of response to COVID-19 because the world is watching,” she said earlier Wednesday, describing equitable access to the tools to fight the pandemic as the “moral and economic issue of our time.”

COVID-19: Elderly called to register for vaccine in Eastern Cape

May 5th 2021 at 10:58

The Eastern Cape Department of Health has called on people aged 60 and above to register for the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine. On Wednesday, 5 May, the department announced that the Sisonke Protocol vaccine programme was back in full swing.

The country’s vaccination programme has been strengthened by the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine – which will mostly be administered in urban areas because of two doses that needs to be administered.

J&J VACCINE WILL BE MAINLY USED IN RURAL AREAS

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout was put on hold after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  found blood clots in six patients who had been vaccinated. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will mainly be used in rural areas as it only requires one dose.

Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth said it was important for people to register for phase two.

“Without them registering to be vaccinated means they will remain defenceless against this virus which has caused so much misery not only in our province and country, but around the world. This is why we want people who are 60 years and older to register so that they will get the vaccine.”

The Department added that 3 776 community healthcare workers will be deployed to register potential COVID-19 vaccinees on a door-to-door basis using their smart phones.

AROUND 37 157 PEOPLE VACCINED IN PROVINCE

While the vaccine was initially administered in Gqeberha, Mthatha and East London, it has been spread to other hospitals in the province as the Eastern Cape hopes to inoculate around 4.5 million people.

“The vaccine is completely safe to use as President Cyril Ramaphosa, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, myself and hundreds of thousands of our healthcare workers have been inoculated. We want to encourage young people to help their parents and grandparents register to be vaccinated because right now, we will not be safe until we have all been vaccinated,” said Meth.

According to the department,  37 157 people were vaccinated for COVID-19 with 14 818 inoculated in Nelson Mandela Bay, 12 813 in Buffalo City Metro and 9 526 in OR Tambo District by 30 April.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINE

Acting Health Superintendent-General Dr Sibongile Zungu said people should stop listening to conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

 “We need people to stop with their conspiracy theories and instead work with government in protecting our population and the only way to do that is to get vaccinated,” she said.

With a population of 6.7 million people, the Eastern Cape wants to inoculate 4.5 million in 705 wards across the province.

This will be done in 1 882 vaccination sites, of which 1 064 will be healthcare facilities and 818 in schools and community halls and other offsite facilities.

READ: COVID-19 vaccine: Limpopo to assist elderly unable to register online

Here’s what you need to know about SA’s first batch of Pfizer vaccines

May 3rd 2021 at 07:35

The first batch of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived in South Africa shortly before midnight on Sunday, 2 May. The shipment contained about 325 000 doses and more are expected on a weekly basis as the country accelerates its vaccine rollout.

After arrival, the entire batch of Pfizer shots was transported to a central warehouse for testing and quality assurance before being shipped off to vaccination sites across the country.

1.3 MILLION SHOTS EXPECTED BY THE END OF MAY

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said the department is expecting to receive the same number of doses – 325 260, to be precise – on a weekly basis. By the end of May the Pfizer vaccine supply should tally more than 1.3 million doses.

“Thereafter the vaccine supply will increase to an average of 636 480 doses weekly from 31 May which will see us accumulating close to 4.5 million doses by the end of June,” said Mkhize.

Last week, South Africa resumed its Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Sisonke early access trial vaccination of health workers – after it was halted when six patients in the US developed blood clots after getting the jab. The country is holding another cache of J&J vaccines at a facility in Gqeberha, Mkhize said the department received communication that indicated that those doses are expected to be released in the middle of May.

The vaccines are embargoed due to a protracted safety verification process with international regulatory agencies, said Mkhize.

“In the meantime, we will continue to vaccinate our health care workers with the remaining early access doses of Johnson and Johnson (through the Sisonke Protocol) and we will proceed to vaccinate with Pfizer,” said Mkhize.

The minister also called on all health care workers – including traditional healers – and all elderly citizens – 60 years and older – to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) in order to ensure they have access to the vaccine.

The first batch of Pfizer vaccines
have landed at OR Tambo International Airport. pic.twitter.com/eOlrWWBkfl

— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) May 3, 2021

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PFIZER VACCINE

The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered in two doses, three weeks apart via an injection into the muscle.  A protective effect starts to develop with 12 days of the first jab but for full protection two doses are necessary. The duration of protection is currently unknown.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mRNA vaccine is safe and 95% effective, even in people who suffer from conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus, including hypertension, diabetes, asthma and more. It has also been proven to be effective against a variety of variants. However, people with a history of allergic reactions to any ingredients of the vaccine should not take it. Children under the age of 16 are also not advised to take the jab because not enough testing has been done for that age group.

Vaccination does not necessarily prevent infection and transmission of COVID-19 but getting the jab may prevent serious illness. “There is currently no substantive data available related to impact of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on transmission or viral shedding,” said WHO.

“In the meantime, we must maintain and strengthen public health measures that work: masking, physical distancing, handwashing, respiratory and cough hygiene, avoiding crowds, and ensuring good ventilation.”

‘Current vaccination pace, it will take over 10 years for SA to reach herd immunity’

May 1st 2021 at 11:18

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 cases on the African continent. It has more than 50 000 reported deaths. This may be an underestimate, looking at excess death statistics. The economic cost of the pandemic is evident on the streets and healthcare facilities have been under considerable strain during the waves of the pandemic.

It was with much relief, elation and a renewed sense of hope that many healthcare workers enrolled in the Johnson and Johnson vaccination trial in mid-February and received their much-anticipated vaccination.

But the relief and elation have given way to frustration and disillusionment. The country’s rollout is proceeding at a pace much slower than expected.

To date just over 293 000, South Africans have had received their jab, which represents only a fraction of the 1.25 million healthcare workers who are first in line. This adds up to about 0.5% of the general population. The initial target of having 67% of the country’s citizens vaccinated by the end of 2021 is now unlikely to be achieved.

The new rollout plan promises to vaccinate 1.5 million by the end of May 2021. Phase 2 is set to happen between May and October 2021 with the aim of an additional 13 million vaccinated in that time frame.

ALSO READ: Pregnant and breastfeeding moms can now get Covid-19 vaccine

Several factors have contributed to South Africa’s halting start. These include global health inequality, South Africa’s delay in joining the global race for procurement, delays in the rollout plan as well as uncertainty around efficacy and side effects of vaccines that were procured.

At the current vaccination pace, it will take over a decade for South Africa to reach herd immunity, with many lives lost along the way.

Vaccine hiccups

The biggest challenge has been access. Like other developing countries, South Africa has really struggled to get doses.

The WHO director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, put it succinctly when he said:

Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritise bilateral deals, … driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue. This is wrong.

Ghebreyesus was referring to the fact that developing country governments have procured and hoarded vaccines for their own populations. Even before many of the Covid-19 vaccines had received final approval, some countries had procured several million doses of those that held promise.

An additional factor was South Africa’s slow start. The government has been criticised for not actively engaging in vaccine procurement through other avenues at an earlier stage. By mid-January 2021 the country’s participation in the COVAX vaccine scheme only secured enough doses for around 10% of the population.

On top of this, there has been a series of problems with vaccines South Africa managed to secure. And the evolution of new variants and uncertainties around the efficacy of vaccines to emerging variants has slowed the country’s efforts to overcome this pandemic through prevention.

For example, the planned rollout of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India was abruptly halted when locally generated data showed decreased efficacy against the B.1.351 variant first identified in the country.

Then the Johnson and Johnson hit a roadblock. The rollout was recently halted following the FDA-mandated suspension of its use in the US. This has posed another challenge to vaccination efforts. The halt spoke to safety concerns and allowed the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to evaluate the scientific evidence and establish appropriate risk to benefit ratios. Last week, it was announced that the Johnson and Johnson rollout would be allowed to resume.

Another big issue that is likely to slow down the momentum of the country’s vaccination programme is vaccine mistrust. In a survey done by the University of Johannesburg, up to a third of South Africans said that they would refuse a Covid-19 vaccine if it was offered to them.

This could be echoing a deterioration in trust in the handling of the pandemic as a whole.

Misinformation, exaggeration and de-contextualisation of facts on various social media platforms have led to a large degree of vaccine mistrust among people. Aside from conspiracy theories and grossly inaccurate misrepresentations of facts, there is an increasing mistrust in science, pharmaceutical companies and authorities.

The road ahead

Balancing efficacy, safety, storage requirements and sustainability when it comes to vaccine selection is no easy task. But some countries have managed it better than others.

South Africa is one of the countries that is lagging far behind.

The human and economic cost of passively allowing the pandemic to run its course in an era where vaccines are available is unacceptable. In addition, the emergence of variants is a compelling reason to step up vaccination efforts. Suboptimal levels of immunity will mean more people get ill and die. It will also increase the likelihood new variants emerging.

The South African government needs to shift gear on a number of fronts.

It needs to make vaccine procurement a budget priority and procure more vaccines.

Secondly, it needs to clarify urgently what the requirements are for the involvement of private medical providers in the vaccine rollout. It also needs to expand the number of platforms (such as local clinics, GP practices, pharmacies, and private and state facilities) on which the vaccines are rolled out. If ever there was a need for public-private collaboration it is now – both in terms of funding vaccines and in providing platforms. This would enable large-scale vaccination to occur at the pace needed to turn the tide against Covid-19 in South Africa.

The government also needs to do more to raise public awareness and dispel myths at a community level.

Clearly, this will have to be a collaborative effort between all stakeholders – from international efforts for equity to engagement by the pharmaceutical industry, procurement by government, the involvement of private sector players and widespread information and education of the general public.

The Conversation, Veronica Ueckermann, Adjunct Professor: Department Internal Medicine, University of Pretoria

This story first appeared on Moneyweb and has been republished with permission.

Covid-stricken India posts new virus record

April 30th 2021 at 16:17

New Delhi – India on Friday posted another grim  global record for daily coronavirus infections, pushing worldwide cases past 150 million, as the first US emergency aid arrived in a major international effort to contain the pandemic.

The United States had good news at home with the vaccination campaign boasting a significant milestone of 100 million people now vaccinated.

“That’s 100 million Americans with a sense of relief and peace of mind,” said White House pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients.

ALSO READ: Daily Covid-19 update: 1674 new cases as three provinces report no deaths

The country has distributed 237 million doses, and 55 percent of adults have now received at least one dose.

But the White House announced Friday the US will restrict travel from India starting May 4, citing “extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India”.

The pandemic has killed almost 3.2 million worldwide and continues to wreak devastation.

The number of daily cases has more than doubled since mid-February, an AFP tally showed, in an explosion in infections blamed in part on a new Covid-19 variant but also on failure to follow virus restrictions.

The countries with the highest total number of cases are the United States, India and Brazil.

The continent seeing the bulk of new daily cases is Asia, driven largely by a devastating wave in India which now accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s new cases and has overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums.

ALSO READ: Gift of the Givers to assist India as it battles Covid-19 crisis

India recorded another 385,000 cases in the past 24 hours — a new global record — and almost 3,500 deaths, according to official data that many experts suspect falls short of the true toll.

More than 40 countries have committed to sending medical aid to India, with a US Super Galaxy military transporter carrying more than 400 oxygen cylinders, other hospital equipment and nearly one million rapid coronavirus tests arriving in New Delhi on Friday.

The Indian diaspora has also sprung into action, with a collection of overseas volunteers scrambling to locate desperately needed supplies for Covid-19 stricken relatives, friends and strangers back home.

Compounding India’s woes as cases soared has been its failure to get a much-needed vaccine programme off the ground.

Until now, only “frontline” workers like medical staff, people over 45 and those with underlying illnesses have been given the AstraZeneca shot or Bharat Biotech’s homegrown Covaxin.

As of Saturday jabs will be open to all adults, meaning around 600 million more people will be eligible.

Brazil woes

Also struggling to inoculate a vast country facing a surge in cases is Brazil, which has one of the highest mortality rates in the pandemic, at 189 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

The country recorded 3,001 Covid deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its overall toll to 401,186.

Experts blame the latest surge partly on the “Brazil variant” of the virus, a mutation that emerged in or around the Amazon rainforest city of Manaus in December.

But many have also pointed the finger at the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, which now faces investigation into whether there was criminal neglect in its handling of the pandemic.

Around 28 million people have received a first Covid-19 vaccine dose, just over 10 percent of the population.

Argentina on Friday extended by three weeks a nightly coronavirus curfew for Buenos Aires, and President Alberto Fernandez said he would seek to compel the city to close schools

Off West Africa, the archipelago nation of Cape Verde announced new virus restrictions  to cope with a surge of infections.

Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva said sports facilities will close for a month from Friday, and  restaurants and bars must shut after 9 pm.

Since the discovery of the virus, more than 50.2 million cases have been recorded in Europe — more than a third of worldwide infections.

But the continent is beginning to open up again as vaccination campaigns pick up.

Italy on Friday announced that for the first time it had inoculated more than 500,000 people in a day, meeting a key  target.

Heritage sites are due to reopen across Scotland for the first time this year on Friday and after the longest closure since World War II, as coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.

In France, cafes, cultural venues and business will reopen in several phases from May, President Emmanuel Macron said.

On Friday he announced that all adults in France would be eligible to be vaccinated from June 15, blowing open the immunisation campaign he hopes will let the badly-hit country get back to normal.

And in neighbouring Belgium, renowned beer brewers hit hard by months of lockdown are rushing to ensure adequate supplies are available when establishments reopen next week.

Among those celebrating will be British pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca, which on Friday reported $275 million (227 million euros) in sales from its Covid vaccine in the first three months of the year.

Jalees Andrabi, with AFP bureaus

Daily Covid-19 update: 1674 new cases as three provinces report no deaths

April 30th 2021 at 14:32

As of Friday, the cumulative number of detected Covid-19 cases is 1,581,210 with 1674 new cases identified, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed.

19 more Covid-19 related deaths were reported, with 3 from Eastern Cape, 1 from Free State, 7 from Gauteng, 4 from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), 0 from Limpopo, 3 from Mpumalanga, 0 from North West, 0 from Northern Cape and 1 from Western Cape.

This brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 54,350.

Recoveries now stand at 1,505,620 representing a recovery rate of 95%.

A total of 10,654,870 tests have been completed with 29,840 new tests conducted since the last report.

Meanwhile, the total number of vaccines that have been administered stands at 317,656.

READ MORE:  Thursday’s Covid-19 update

#COVID19 Statistics in SA as at 30 April.

Use the COVID Alert SA app to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community. Start using this privacy preserving app today. Add your phone to the fight! Download the Covid Alert SA app now! https://t.co/8YKEqaiiRF pic.twitter.com/dc8gBMmCiI

— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) April 30, 2021

Meanwhile, Humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, has called on the public for donations to assist its intervention in India, where there has been a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The country had more than 18 million cases by Thursday and hospitals and mortuaries reported they were overwhelmed. On the same day, India recorded 379,257 new infections and 3,645 deaths.

Experts punt vaccines as World Immunisation Week ends

April 29th 2021 at 15:02

This year’s World Immunisation Week’s theme, “vaccines bring us closer”, aims to encourage greater engagement about immunisation globally, to promote the importance of vaccination in improving the health and well-being of everyone.

The week is recognised every year from 24 to 30 April.

Professor Sipho Dlamini from the department of medicine at University of Cape Town urged people to get the Covid-19 and other vaccinations.

ALSO READ: Moderna eyes three billion Covid vaccine doses in 2022

“Vaccines work and have saved millions of lives to date,” he said.

“They are also safe and effective.

“Vaccines are not a sliver bullet but do help in protecting individuals, communities and the global community.”

A paediatrician, Ashley Wewege, said: “Everyone has a fundamental right to be protected by full immunisation, regardless of location, age, socioeconomic status or gender-related barriers. Vaccines for flu, measles, pertussis, or whooping cough, and pneumococcal infections were important to consider in the South African context. Travellers can be vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, meningococcal disease, yellow fever and rabies.”

The World Health Organisation published an immunisation agenda last year, which aimed to set a global vision and strategy for vaccines and immunisation from this year until 2030.

Wewege said: “There are nearly 20 million children in the world today who are not getting the vaccines they need and many miss out on vital vaccines during adolescence, adulthood and into old age, which is a problem that must be eradicated.”

According to the immunisation agenda, not every country received vaccines for its people. “The benefits of immunisation are unevenly shared: coverage varies widely among and within countries.

“Some populations [often the poorest, the most marginalised and the most vulnerable, in fragile, conflict-torn settings] have poor access to immunisation services.”

The agenda added: “Each year, 20 million infants do not receive a full course of even basic vaccines and many more miss out on newer vaccines. Of these, over 13 million receive no vaccines … the ‘zero dose’ children.”

Dlamini said some of the myths that needed to be eradicated included: vaccines only being necessary for children and not adults; the ingredients of the vaccines altering a person’s DNA and all vaccines being unsafe for pregnant women.

Vaccines were tested and monitored and side-effects were usually mild.

asandam@citizen.co.za

South Africa to get Russian and Chinese COVID-19 vaccines

April 28th 2021 at 07:58
South Africa plans to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines and shots developed by China’s Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd as it steps up efforts to tackle the coronavirus.

India is being pulverised by a second Covid-19 wave

April 28th 2021 at 03:57
By: Eyaaz

Oxygen, hospital bed and medication shortages have left thousands dead. But the ruling party lets millions gather at religious festivals and remains on the campaign trail

The post India is being pulverised by a second Covid-19 wave appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

“One-in-a-million chance” of developing blood clots – Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine rollout to resume

April 26th 2021 at 05:05
South Africa will resume administering Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccines to healthcare workers on April 28, after putting their use on hold for two weeks due to concerns that they could be linked to blood clots.

Europe has finally turned a corner on Covid-19 vaccinations

April 24th 2021 at 18:42
Raising hopes the continent can bring the pandemic under control and reopen economies faster than expected.

Johnson & Johnson halt could bolster third wave

April 18th 2021 at 12:22

 

South Africans’ chances against the imminent third wave of Covid-19 infections may be worse off because of the halting of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Janssen, says one of the doctors involved in trialling the drug.

Dr Hugo Tempelman, CEO of the Ndlovu Care Group which conducted trials for the vaccine last year, says though it’s understandable why first world countries can afford to halt the rollout of the vaccine, the same couldn’t be said about South Africa and other developing nations.

Weighing the risks of adverse effects from the vaccine against those faced by South Africa, should it fail to vaccinate enough people on time, Tempelman’s call is that the decision was premature.

Also Read: SAHPRA recommends lift of J&J rollout suspension

“If all the countries are stopping then you cannot say as a country, I continue. But all those countries who stop have alternatives like Moderna or Pfizer and other vaccines and we don’t,” says Tempelman.

“We have taken a first world decision in a third world environment and a low-income environment and I don’t think this decision should be the same in both scenarios.”

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) continued its support of the halting of the Sisonke Program through which the healthcare workers were being vaccinated.

This despite being concerned that the winter months and a possible third wave are approaching with no sign of the vaccine rollout picking up speed.

Nehawu supported the move last week, calling on government to ensure that those who have been administered the drug are monitored for side-effects.

Senior Researcher for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Ridhawan Sulaiman suggested in a tweet on Sunday that South Africa was headed towards an ‘Easter wave’ driven by a resurgence in three of the smaller provinces, namely the free state, Northern Cape and the North West Province.

Motivating this argument, he noted there had been a 35% increase in reported cases of Covid-19 this week and only a 19% increase in testing.

Time for our Sunday update of #COVID19 in SA????????

Clear signs of an “Easter wave” (on cue), driven by a resurgence in 3 of the smaller provinces: NC, FS and NW ⚠️????

• Cases +35% ⬆️
• Tests +19% ⬆️
• Test positivity rate +14% ⬆️
• Hospitalisations +2% ⬆️
• Deaths +51% ⬆️ pic.twitter.com/Aoxuur0KER

— Ridhwaan Suliman (@rid1tweets) April 18, 2021

But this weekend the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) recommended the program be resumed.

The agency had engagements with the the Sisonke Phase 3B Implementation Study team and Janssen Pharmaceutica to discuss the safety data reported from the Sisonke study, following administration of the Covid-19 vaccine Janssen.

These events take place as South Africa continues to support a call for pharmaceutical companies and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waver intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines and treatment.

Last week health minister Zweli Mkhize told parliament that J&J refused to sign off on their order of the doses until certain terms were agreed to, including greater support from the state.

Tempelman has iterated that South Africa was better off brokering a deal for a zero-profit pricing structure in order to make the vaccine affordable. The company plans to manufacture over 300 million doses of the vaccine on South African shores.

“If [the rollout] continued and you were to extrapolate the figures, 11 cases of blood clots from seven million -that should mean that for South Africa that we would have to swallow 90 deaths. We could expect about 100 deaths should we continue,” says Tempelman.

“Daily at the moment  we have about 100 deaths from Covid-19. I think I should not defend the decision because we are heading for a third wave and we could have vaccinations for front-line healthcare workers and I think that should have been a major factor in the decision making.”

Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba is cautious in his noting of Sahpra’s recommendation. Fears of serous side effects still abound.

“We note their recommendation, however more stringent tests will have to be done in order to manage any adverse side effects. Of course there must be measures put in place to accompany the lifting of the pause if government decides to do so to monitor the possibility of side effects.”

-Simnikiweh@citizen.co.za

Government to give go-ahead for Johnson and Johnson vaccine – Report

April 18th 2021 at 04:59
Government plans to resume the vaccination of healthcare workers with the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from Wednesday.

Paddy Harper’s on the Rastazenica vaccine

April 16th 2021 at 15:02

Thursday. It’s Day 385 of the Covid-19 lockdown. Like most of my fellow South Africans, I’m wondering when, if ever, it will be my turn to get vaccinated. There’s no real answer coming from President Cyril Ramaphosa — or Health Minister Zweli Mkhize — at this stage. Lots of ifs, buts and maybes. There are […]

The post Paddy Harper’s on the Rastazenica vaccine appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

COVID-19 online vaccine registrations open for all South Africans – How to register

April 16th 2021 at 00:06
All South Africans who want to receive a Covid-19 vaccine should register using the electronic vaccination data system (EVDS).

South Africa suspends COVID-19 vaccine rollout

April 13th 2021 at 14:12
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced that South Africa will temporarily suspend its Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Sahpra mum on possible ‘halt’ of J&J vaccine after US rollout pause

April 13th 2021 at 11:47

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has remained mum on whether the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine rollout will be halted in South Africa, following reports that the United States had paused their rollout of the vaccine.

This follows recommendations of a rollout pause by the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) after “six reported cases of a rare blood clot in patients who have received the shot”.

UPDATE: SA suspends rollout of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine

Editor’s note: Following the publication of this article it was announced that Health Minister, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, would make an “announcement on South Africa’s response in consideration of the FDA’s decision to advise on the temporary suspension of the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine in the United States of America”. Click on the link above for the full story.

Sahpra spokesperson Yuven Gounden said a special meeting would be held between the Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Professor Glenda Gray, who is the co-principal investigator for the local J&J trial, as well as all stakeholders involved, to discuss the way forward.

ALSO READ: US may ‘pause’ J&J vaccine use as SA awaits 30m doses

“We will probably release all the details tomorrow [Wednesday] after we have had the meeting with all the stakeholders,” said Gounden.

South Africa has ordered 30 million doses of the J&J vaccine, already approved by Sahpra last week.

The single-dose J&J vaccines will also manufactured locally by pharmaceutical giant Aspen in Gqeberha(formerly Port Elizabeth), Eastern Cape.

ALSO READ: Ready for rollout Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine approved

The Aspen facility secured a manufacturing deal with J&J, which the company signed off on Sunday. Production and packaging of the vaccines has already started and delivered is expected later in April.

The J&J vaccine is said to be 85% effective in preventing severe illness from Covid-19. The vaccine also reduces symptomatic Covid-19 disease by 67%.

According to Sahpra, individuals over the age of 18 are able to receive the J&J vaccine jab.

Calls to pause Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine use over blood clotting concerns

April 13th 2021 at 07:51
U.S. health officials recommended a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on concerns about severe blood clotting.

Virus lockdowns around the world as vaccine efforts stumble

April 10th 2021 at 12:29

Fresh lockdowns and curfews were imposed on tens of millions of people from India to Argentina on Saturday, as Covid-19 infections surged again and vaccine roll-outs were hampered by shortages and scares over side effects.

In India, the worst-hit state of Maharashtra was running out of vaccines as the health system buckled under the weight of the contagion, which has killed 2.9 million people worldwide.

Having let its guard down with mass religious festivals, political rallies and spectators at cricket matches, the world’s second-most populous nation has added more than a million new infections since late March.

Every weekend from Saturday until the end of April, Maharashtra’s 125 million people will be confined to their homes unless travelling or shopping for food or medicine.

“I’m not for the lockdown at all but I don’t think the government has any other choice,” media professional Neha Tyagi, 27, told AFP in Maharashtra’s megacity Mumbai.

“This lockdown could have been totally avoided if people would take the virus seriously.”

The crisis is being exacerbated by a shortage of vaccines.

India has so far inoculated 94 million of its 1.3 billion people, but The Times of India reported Friday that states on average had just over five days of stock left, citing health ministry data, with some regions already grappling with severe shortages.

Stay-at-home orders were also set to come into force for the eight million inhabitants of Bogota, as the Colombian capital battled a third wave of infections, adding to curfews already covering seven million across four other major cities.

Elsewhere in South America, Argentina entered a night-time curfew Friday running from midnight to 06:00 am every day until April 30.

It will be in force in the country’s highest-risk areas, mainly urban centres, where bars and restaurants will close at 11:00 pm.

Both Argentina and Colombia have recorded about 2.5 million coronavirus cases, numbers surpassed only by Brazil in the region.

All of France is subject to restrictions of some form, while the German government’s attempts to curb movement and commerce have been stymied by several states refusing to go along with the proposals.

Now Berlin is changing the rules to centralise power, adjustments likely to usher in night-time curfews and some school closures in especially hard-hit areas.

But some countries were in the process of opening up.

Italy was set to end lockdowns from next week for Lombardy, the epicentre of its coronavirus pandemic, and several other regions with improving contagion statistics.

Neighbouring Slovenia announced it would ease coronavirus restrictions and suspend a six-month-long curfew starting Monday.

Shaky roll-outs

As in India, Europe’s stuttering vaccine roll-out faced multiple hurdles Friday as EU regulators said they were reviewing side effects of the Johnson & Johnson shot and France further limited its use of the AstraZeneca jab.

France has repeatedly changed the rules on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, first over doubts about its efficacy, then over fears that it could be linked to blood clots.

On Friday, it did so again, with Health Minister Olivier Veran saying under-55s who had been given a first shot with AstraZeneca would be given a different vaccine for their second dose.

But shortly after he spoke, the World Health Organization said there was “no adequate data” to support switching Covid-19 vaccines between doses.

As for the J&J shot, the European Medicines Agency said four “serious cases” of unusual blood clots had been reported – one of them fatal – with the vaccine, which uses similar technology to the AstraZeneca one.

The US Food and Drug Administration said it had found no causal link between the jab and clots, but noted “a few individuals” in the country had clots and low levels of platelets in the blood after receiving the vaccine, and its investigation was continuing.

Both jabs are approved for use in the European Union (EU) but the J&J vaccine has not yet been rolled out, and various EU countries have stopped or limited the use of AstraZeneca.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said half of its vaccine shipments to the EU would be delayed this week.

In the United States, deliveries of the J&J vaccine were set to drop off sharply next week, US health authorities warned Friday.

And in badly hit Brazil, the Senate said it would open an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, as President Jair Bolsonaro continued to resist lockdown measures even with Covid-19 deaths at new records.

Yet Rio de Janeiro on Friday was reversing restrictions in place for two weeks, reopening restaurants and bars, though the city’s famed beaches remained closed.

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Daily Covid-19 update: 1267 new cases as two provinces record zero deaths

April 9th 2021 at 16:02

 

As of Friday 9 April 2021, the cumulative number of detected Covid-19 cases is 1,556,242 with 1267 new cases identified, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed.

53 more Covid-19 related deaths were reported, with 0 from Eastern Cape, 12 from Free State, 11 from Gauteng, 2 from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), 2 from Limpopo, 0 from Mpumalanga, 0 from North West, 10 from Northern Cape and 16 from Western Cape.

ALSO READ: How Covid-19 fuelled science-media distrust

This brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 53,226.

Recoveries now stand at 1,481,637 representing a recovery rate of 95%.

A total of 10,086,459 tests have been completed with 30,560 new tests conducted since the last report.

Meanwhile, the total number of vaccines that have been administered stands at 288,368.

#COVID19 UPDATE: A total of 30 560 tests were conducted in the last 24 hrs, with 1 267 new cases, which represents a 4% positivity rate. A further 53 #COVID19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 53 226 to date. Read more here: https://t.co/Mxni6yFoDS pic.twitter.com/35s3sHG5tt

— NICD (@nicd_sa) April 9, 2021

‘Age is most important factor in administering Covid-19 vaccines’

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Thursday said lessons learned from the vaccine rollout to healthcare workers showed that age is the most important factor determining adverse outcomes such as death, hospitalisation and moderate to severe illness from the virus.

Mkhize said some of the key findings from the Sisonke Protocol using Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine have necessitated some revisions to the country’s rollout plan. He was speaking at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital during his visit to assess the readiness of Gauteng’s Covid-19 vaccination centres.

South Africa is preparing to administer vaccines to vulnerable groups in the second phase of the government’s vaccination plan expected to kick off from 17 May 2021 and running until 17 October 2021. So far, 283,629 health workers have been vaccinated and the government has secured a combined 51 million doses of vaccines – 31 million from J&J’s one-dose vaccine and 20 million from Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine.

South Africa signs deal for 20 million COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer

April 7th 2021 at 01:16
South Africa finalized a deal to receive 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE from mid-April, allowing the country to prepare for a broad roll-out of inoculations after a series of setbacks.

SA seals deal for 20 million Pfizer Covid-19 jabs – report

April 6th 2021 at 14:40

South Africa has reportedly concluded a deal to buy 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech dual-shot Covid-19 vaccine.

Citing deputy director-general at the Department of Health, Anban Pillay, Reuters reported that the first batch from Pfizer is expected to arrive later in April.

Last month, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) approved a Section 21 application for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

This means that the sought-after vaccine has been approved for distribution, but the approval is subject to monitoring the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, Sahpra said.

Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that their Covid-19 vaccine was highly effective against the South African variant in the latest phase of ongoing clinical trials.

With the 30 million vaccines expected from Johnson & Johnson (J&J), South Africa could take delivery of about 50 million vaccines in April.

Meanwhile, South Africa did not inoculate a single person against Covid-19 during the Easter weekend.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday said it was disappointed and would approach the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to “urgently launch an investigation into the government’s tardy and criminally slow vaccine roll-out strategy”.

Compiled by Neo Thale. Additional reporting by Molefe Seeletsa

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Only vaccinated Muslims will be allowed for Mecca pilgrimage

April 5th 2021 at 14:03

Riyadh – Saudi authorities said Monday only people immunised against Covid-19 will be allowed to perform the year-round umrah pilgrimage from the start of Ramadan, the holy fasting month for Muslims.

The hajj and umrah ministry said in a statement that three categories of people would be considered “immunised” — those who have received two doses of the vaccine, those administered a single dose at least 14 days prior, and people who have recovered from the infection.

Only those people will be eligible for permits to perform umrah, as well as to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.

It added that the condition also applies for entry into the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina.

The ministry said the policy starts with Ramadan, which is due to begin later this month, but it was unclear how long it would last.

It was also not clear whether the policy, which comes amid an uptick in coronavirus infections in the kingdom, would be extended to the annual hajj pilgrimage later this year.

ALSO READ: ‘Extreme worry’ that Easter, Ramadan could lead to another wave

Saudi Arabia has reported more than 393,000 coronavirus infections and 6,700 deaths from Covid-19.

The kingdom’s health ministry said it has administered more than five million coronavirus vaccines, in a country with a population of over 34 million.

Last month, King Salman replaced the hajj minister, months after the kingdom hosted the smallest hajj in modern history due to the pandemic.

Mohammad Benten was relieved from his post and replaced by Essam bin Saeed, according to a royal decree published by official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The kingdom hosted the hajj in late July last year.

Only 10,000 Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia itself were allowed to take part, a far cry from the 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who participated in 2019.

It is unclear how many pilgrims will be allowed for hajj this year.

According to the pro-government Okaz newspaper, only vaccinated pilgrims will likely be permitted this year.

In a relaxation of coronavirus curbs last October, Saudi Arabia opened the Grand Mosque for prayers for the first time in seven months and partially resumed the umrah pilgrimage.

The umrah usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year.

Authorities said the umrah will be allowed to return to full capacity once the threat of the pandemic has abated.

AFP

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Netherlands temporarily halts AstraZeneca COVID vaccinations

April 3rd 2021 at 14:14

On Friday, the Dutch health ministry said it would temporarily stop inoculations for people below the age of 60. But after talks on Saturday, health departments decided to suspend all AstraZeneca jabs to avoid waste.

Some 700 people above the age of 60 were due to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming days, but their appointments were also temporarily cancelled, as there were no guarantees that a full batch could be entirely used if only a few people were to receive jabs.

The decision comes days after authorities in Germany also stopped using AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the below-60s, citing fresh concerns over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of those who received the shots.

Earlier on Friday, a Dutch organisation that monitors vaccine side effects said it had received five reports of blood clots with low blood platelet counts following vaccinations. DPA news agency reported that one person died.

All the cases occurred between seven and 10 days after the vaccinations and all the people affected were women aged between 25 and 65.

Investigations are under way to ascertain whether these were caused by the vaccination.

ALSO SEE: Seven deaths in UK among AstraZeneca jab recipients after blood clots – regulator

The vaccine monitoring organisation said in the period when the five cases were reported, some 400,000 people were vaccinated in the Netherlands with AstraZeneca’s shot.

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge says the temporary halt is a precautionary measure.

“I think it is very important that the Dutch reports are also properly investigated,” de Jonge said. “We must err on the side of caution.”

Saturday’s decision is another setback for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is critical to Europe’s immunisation campaign and a linchpin in the global strategy to get shots to poorer countries as it is cheaper and easier to use than rival vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

It comes two weeks after the European Union drug regulator said the vaccine does not increase the overall incidence of blood clots following a similar scare.

At the time, the European Medicines Agency said the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks, but it could not rule out a link between the shot and some unusual kinds of clots, and recommended adding a warning about possible rare side effects.

De Jonge said the Dutch pause comes before an update next week from the EU medicines agency on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Most EU countries, including Germany, resumed using the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 19.

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Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine gets official approval in South Africa

April 1st 2021 at 10:52
Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine has been approved by South African regulators for general use days after President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country will get more than 30 million doses.

New COVID-19 vaccine plan for South Africa targets 200,000 people per day

March 28th 2021 at 01:22
Health Minister Zwele Mkhize has outlined a new plan to rapidly speed up South Africa's COVID-19 vaccination efforts to reach herd immunity by early 2022, the Sunday Times has reported.

These 13 people spread most false vaccine information on social media – Report

March 25th 2021 at 05:38
A new report has claimed that the vast majority of anti-vaccine information found on social media originated from just 13 people.

Bill Gates, Big Pharma and entrenching the vaccine apartheid

January 30th 2021 at 14:00

Waiving intellectual property restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines could help the developing world. But India and South Africa’s pleas are falling on deaf ears

The post Bill Gates, Big Pharma and entrenching the vaccine apartheid appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

Debunk the lies of anti-vaxxers

January 25th 2021 at 06:11
By: Eyaaz

There’s more than enough to be suspicious about with Big Pharma, but know your enemy

The post Debunk the lies of anti-vaxxers appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

Egypt, Seychelles get first jabs

January 24th 2021 at 14:00

The two countries have rolled out China’s Sinopharm vaccine, but data issues are likely to keep some countries from doing the same

The post Egypt, Seychelles get first jabs appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

Repo rate remains unchanged at 3.5%

January 21st 2021 at 10:32
By: Eyaaz
The South African Reserve Bank has unanimously decided to keep the repo unchanged at 6.5%.

The South African Reserve Bank’s MPC has decided to keep the repo rate unchanged, at 3.5%, to let the actions it took last year trickle down into the economy

The post Repo rate remains unchanged at 3.5% appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

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