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28 February 2021

Moderna produces Covid-19 shot targeting variant found in SA

Business Day 01 March 2021 - US biotech is preparing for a clinical trial to gauge effectiveness on 501. V2 strain

Moderna has become the first vaccine maker to produce a shot targeted at the virus variant discovered in SA, and will ship the doses to the US National Institutes of Health to prepare for a clinical trial. The Boston-based biotech is taking a three-pronged strategy to address concerns that its vaccine, along with several others, is less effective against the 501. V2 strain. 

J&J will now deliver 11-million vaccines

Business Day 28 February 2021 - SA has also secured 20-million vaccine doses from Pfizer, Ramaphosa says in address to the nation

SA has signed a deal with pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) that adds 2-million more doses to what was initially secured, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed on Sunday evening. Vaccination is critical as it will save lives and support the complete reopening of the economy, which has been devastated by the lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus in SA, Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.


SA scientists welcome US regulator’s approval of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Business Day 28 February 2021 - The approval by one of the world's most stringent regulators of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) coronavirus vaccine has been welcomed by SA’s top scientists. 

On Saturday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency-use authorisation for the third vaccine for the prevention of Covid-19 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The emergency-use authorisation allows the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine to be distributed in the US for use in individuals 18 years and older, the FDA said in a statement. 

Advanced Health improves SA revenue despite Covid-19 patient hit

Business Day 26 February 2021 - The day-hospital operator continued to incur losses at its SA operations in its six months to end-December, but moved closer to breaking even

Day-hospital operator Advanced Health says it has managed to grow revenue at its unprofitable SA operations in spite of Covid-19, adding that local medical schemes are gradually seeing its facilities as an alternative, more cost-effective option. Day-hospitals are healthcare facilities providing short-procedure surgical services and diagnostic procedures that need to be performed on a same-day basis. 

State targets a million jabs by end-March

Business Day 25 February 2021 - Health-care workers remain first in line

More than a million health-care workers can expect to receive a coronavirus shot by the end of March, after the health department secured a commitment from Pfizer for an initial tranche of 600,000 doses of its double-shot vaccine, health minister Zweli Mkhize told parliament on Thursday. The Treasury announced in Wednesday’s budget that it had allocated R10.3bn for Covid-19 vaccines until the end of the 2023/2024 fiscal year and will draw up to another R9bn from the contingency reserve if required, underscoring the government’s commitment to inoculating SA’s population against the coronavirus. 

US drug regulator clears way for emergency use of ‘safe and effective’ J&J vaccine

Business Day 24 February 2021 - Shot achieved a rate of 64% at stopping moderate to severe cases of Covid-19 in SA after 28 days

Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose Covid-19 vaccine appeared safe and effective in trials, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Wednesday, paving the way for its approval for emergency use as soon as this week. The vaccine was 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 in a 44,000-person global trial, the FDA said in documents before a Friday meeting of independent experts who will advise the agency on emergency authorisation. Overall, the vaccine was 100% effective at stopping hospitalisation 28 days after vaccination. 

Ten explosive forensic reports show scope of graft at GEMS

Medical Brief 24 February 2021 - A forensic administration found that executives of the Government Employees Medical Scheme have engaged in tender rigging, fraud, maladministration and corruption totalling more than R300m.

The accusations of graft at GEMS are detailed in a series of 10 forensic reports which show that over a period of five years the scheme had appointed and paid more than R300m to companies in which some of its executives had direct financial interests. 

Health budget slashed

Business Day 24 February 2021 - The Treasury has instituted unprecedented cuts to the health budget as it seeks to rein in government spending

Despite shoring up funding to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, Treasury has instituted a R67.2bn cut to consolidated health expenditure over the medium-term expenditure framework, deepening the R3.9bn cut that had already been worked into the 2020 budget. The 2020/2021 special adjustments budget allocated and re-prioritised roughly R20bn to the health sector for Covid-19 interventions. This year’s budget sees R9bn allocated to the government’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout and another R8bn is allocated to provinces for coronavirus prevention, testing and care, including hospitalisations during a possible third wave of infections. 

‘Significant’ risk to dispensing SA’s unregistered Ivermectin

Medical Brief 24 February 2021 - Four out of five Ivermectin tablets tested in South Africa had at least one unregistered active pharmaceutical ingredient, writes MedicalBrief.

This had “significant potential safety concerns for patients (and) consequent legal ramifications for the dispenser and/or prescribing doctor”, warns the small study, published in the SA Medical Journal. The authors write that the anecdotal evidence of successful COVID19 treatment with Ivermectin formulations may be confounded by the possible intentional addition of these undeclared medications to target and alleviate COVID-19 symptoms. This may well contribute to the impression of efficacy in ameliorating COVID-19 symptoms. 

Euthanasia: HPCSA says applicants exaggerating their symptoms

Medical Brief 24 February 2021 - The Health Professions Council of SA is opposing the latest bid to legalise euthanasia, claiming the applicants are exaggerating their illnesses.

According to Rapport, the application by palliative care doctor Sue Walter (47) and her patient Dieter Harck (71) was set to be heard in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) on Monday 22 February, but will now in all probability be heard next week. As reported earlier, Walter was diagnosed in February 2017 with multiple myeloma and Harck was diagnosed in 2013 with motor neuron disease. Both say they are suffering from ‘torturing symptoms’ and want the law to be developed to allow for physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and physician-assisted euthanasia (PAE). 

Government pins hopes on vaccines as it allocates R9bn to immunisation drive

Business Day 24 February 2021 - SA will benefit from resumption of international goods trade and a resurgence in tourism, Treasury says

In a sign the government is pinning its hopes on a swift coronavirus vaccine rollout to save lives and jobs, the Treasury has set aside R9bn in the medium term for the national immunisation drive and indicated it is willing to spend more than twice as much should the need arise. While stopping short of laying out specifics, the Treasury also indicated it expects some funding for the national vaccination programme to come from the private sector. Of the R9bn allocated for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, R6.5bn is allocated to the department of health to procure and distribute the shots, R2.4bn is set aside for provincial health departments to administer them, R50m is allocated to the Government Communication and Information System to run communication campaigns, and R100m will be provided to the Medical Research Council (MRC) for research. 

Discovery Medical Scheme plans merger with Quantum Medical

Business Day 23 February 2021 - Discovery says Quantum Medical is unlikely to be sustainable over the long term due to falling membership, which has been worsened by Covid-19

Discovery plans to merge its medical scheme with Quantum Medical Aid Society on April 1 2021, according to a notice posted on its website. Quantum is a small, restricted-membership medical scheme whose participating employees are Bidvest and Sun International workers. The proposed amalgamation has been approved by the Registrar of Medical Schemes.