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07 March 2021

Business calls for the elderly to get their Covid-19 jabs first

Business Day 08 March 2021 - SA faces a vaccine supply crunch between April and June

Business for SA (B4SA) has urged the government to review plans for the coronavirus vaccine second phase and inoculate the elderly before essential workers to protect the most vulnerable as soon as possible. SA faces a vaccine supply crunch between April and June, raising the prospect of many of the most vulnerable people not being covered before the next surge, which many experts expect as soon as May. Age raises the risk of severe Covid-19 and the risk of underlying conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, associated with a poorer Covid patient outcome. 

Stark link between obesity and Covid deaths revealed

Business Day 08 March 2021 - Nine out of 10 deaths from coronavirus have occurred in countries with high obesity levels, according to World Health Organization (WHO)-backed research that sets out the stark correlation between excessive weight and lives lost to the disease.

The study from the World Obesity Federation (WOF), which represents scientists, medical professionals and researchers from more than 50 regional and national obesity associations, showed mortality rates were 10 times higher where at least 50% of the population was overweight. It offers fresh insight into why people in some countries die at far greater rates after catching the virus than in others. Age has been seen as the biggest predictor for severe outcomes, which has led to priority being given to older people in most countries’ Covid-19 vaccine rollouts. But the WOF said its report “shows for the first time that overweight populations come a close second”. It is now calling for this group to be prioritised for immunisation. 

Phase 2 of vaccine rollout will be the real challenge for the state

Business Day 05 March 2021 - With about 16-million people in the group, the government will have to make tough choices on who to jab first

Attention is now turning to the next stage, but details of who is eligible for vaccination in phase 2, when it will start, who will be at the front of the queue and how the private sector fits into the distribution plan remain sketchy. The broad brush strokes of the government’s strategy were set out in a presentation health minister Zweli Mkhize made to parliament in early January, which described three phases for immunising 67% of the population, or 40-million people. Phase 1 prioritises SA’s estimated 1.25-million health-care workers, a group the government estimates to be at three to four times higher risk of coronavirus infection than the general population; phase 2 will cover people over the age of 60, adults with co-morbidities that increase their risk of severe Covid-19, essential workers, and people in congregated settings such as care homes and prisons — an estimated 16.6-million people. Phase 3 will target everyone else over the age of 18, estimated at 22.5-million people. 

SA working with AU to secure vaccine for10-million people

Business Day 05 March 2021 - SA urgently needs to scale up daily vaccinations from about 5,000 to about 250,000 to hit its target of immunising 40-million people

SA is negotiating with an AU platform to buy Covid-19 vaccines for at least 10-million of its people, a senior health official said on Friday. SA was provisionally allocated 12-million doses developed by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in an AU vaccine plan, but it was unclear how many vaccines it would seek to buy after it halted plans to use the AstraZeneca shot. Sandile Buthelezi, department of health director-general, did not say which vaccines the country would order via the AU in comments to parliament. 

CEO of SA Private Practitioners’ Forum, Chris Archer, dies

Business Day 04  March 2021 - Archer had led SAPPF, one of the key associations for health care professionals in private practice, for 13 years

The CEO  of the SA Private Practitioners’ Forum (SAPPF), Chris Archer, has died, the association announced on Thursday. SAPPF CEO Simon Strachan, who took over the position at the beginning of March, said Archer died after a “sudden illness”. Archer had led SAPPF, one of the key associations for health-care professionals in private practice, for 13 years. “Chris was a fearless campaigner for the prosperity of the private health-care sector and for the self determination of the private health-care provider,” Strachan said. 

Rejected AstraZeneca vaccine could save lives, says Shabir A Madhi

Business Day 04 March 2021 - Leading vaccinologist says decision to offload the AstraZeneca vaccine is a mistake

The government’s decision to offload the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of using it to protect high-risk individuals from severe Covid-19 is a mistake, leading vaccinologist Prof Shabir A Madhi says. In an opinion piece written for Business Day, Madhi says the 1-million doses, which cost SA R75m, are likely to save the lives of those at risk in the next wave of infections. Experts expect a third wave to hit SA in the winter months. Madhi, who is the dean of the Wits Medical School, says the decision by the government not to use the vaccine leaves older and vulnerable citizens without any potential protection from Covid-19 as it is not likely that enough other vaccines will have arrived in SA by winter. 

Plan to test unused AstraZeneca vaccines shelved

Business Day 04 March 2021 - The government has shelved plans to launch an implementation study of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which could potentially have answered key questions about whether it protects people from severe disease caused by the new variant dominating transmission in SA.

The health department originally planned to launch SA’s coronavirus vaccine rollout with AstraZeneca’s shot but changed its plans at the 11th hour after evidence emerged that the jab offered minimal protection against mild to moderate disease caused by the 501Y.V2 variant. The government switched to Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) vaccine, which it began dispensing to health-care workers on February 18. When the government suspended the AstraZeneca rollout, it said it might use some of the 1.5-million doses it had already procured from the Serum Institute of India to determine whether they did at least protect people from severe illness and death from Covid-19. 

Momentum CEO questions centralised vaccine plan

Business Day 04 March 2021 - Momentum Metropolitan chief Hillie Meyer says SA should aim to inoculate entire population in six months and that private sector can help

Momentum Metropolitan CEO Hillie Meyer has expressed concern about SA’s proposed centralised Covid-19 vaccine procurement approach, saying the country needs to use all available resources to ensure the population is inoculated. “I’m very concerned about the very centralised approach — it’s almost like everything has to be recorded on a system that is run by the department of health,” Meyer told Business Day in an interview. “If vaccines are more readily available we don’t need the control. It’s like polio — people know they’ve got to get inoculated. People will go, we don’t have to force people ... we can’t in any case.” 

Fresh criticism of ‘dysfunctional’ HPCSA after Ramdhin debacle

Medical Brief 03 March 2021 - Yet another collapsed Health Professions Council of SA disciplinary hearing has brought new criticism of an organisation that a ministerial task ream six years go declared to be organisationally dysfunctional

It follows the HPCSA having to abandon a hearing into the suspension of allegedly serial offending Cape Town obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Ganes Anil Ramdhin because of an administrative bungle. Ramdhin faced charges related to fraud, incompetence and practising beyond the scope of profession. The latest complaints against him related to allegations that two cancer patients in their 40s — Zoleka Helesi of Khayelitsha and Beauty Mama of Port Elizabeth — died after he botched gynaecological surgery, report Sipokazi Fokazi and Tanya Farber on TimesLIVE


Dominant variant in SA may offer path to better vaccines

Business Day 03 March 2021 - Antibodies generated in response appear to provide protection against others strains, say scientists

Antibodies generated in response to the new coronavirus variant dominating transmission in SA appear to provide protection against infection with several other strains, a discovery that could pave the way for better vaccines, SA scientists announced on Wednesday. The 501Y.V2 variant was detected by scientists from the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) late last year, and now accounts for virtually all infections in SA. It was classed as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, because it spreads more easily and can infect more people than the original Sars-Cov-2 virus. It has now been detected in 48 countries. The 501Y.V2 variant has also thrown up a major challenge for vaccine developers, as they crafted their shots to confer protection against the wildtype virus first detected in Wuhan, China. 

SA faces vaccine shortage for winter

Business Day 02 March 2021 - Government has yet to provide clear information on the date of arrival of vaccines

SA faces a potential shortage of coronavirus vaccines that could compromise its ability to protect its most vulnerable citizens from the next wave of infections, widely expected to strike as winter closes in. While the government has consistently said it has secured enough Covid-19 shots to inoculate two-thirds of the population, or 40-million people in the next 12 months, it has yet to provide a clear line of sight on the date of arrival of these vaccines in SA. On Monday, Business For SA (B4SA) warned that the country faces a supply problem between April and June. The vaccine crunch in the second quarter is the “singular focus” of the public and private sectors, which are trying to accelerate the vaccine supplies in the pipeline, said Nicolaou, who is also head of strategic trade at Aspen Pharmacare.