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22 August 2021
Medicines regulator says serious vaccine side effects are rare 

Business Day 22 August 2021 - SA’s medicines regulator has reassured vaccine hesitant people that side effects from the shots are rare. 

Immunisation efforts in the country have stalled, with the government saying it will struggle to achieve the 70% inoculation level it needs to create herd immunity to fully reopen economic activity. The hesitancy has been fuelled in part by a lack of confidence in the safety of the vaccines. An investigation by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has concluded that out of 32 deaths reported, 28 were not related to the vaccine. The other four were inconclusive as there was insufficient data on the cases. 

 Covid-19 has led to shortage of blood donors around the world 

Business Day 21 August 2021 - Doctors say donor pools have shrunk to alarmingly low levels, threatening urgent operations 

From Seoul to Paris, and Moscow to Bangkok, concerned citizens are lining up for shots as Covid-19 case numbers swell. That may ease pressure on stretched hospitals around the world, but with it comes a hangover — a severe shortage of blood donors. A number of countries don't allow people who have just been vaccinated to give blood, as well as banning those in recovery from the coronavirus. With others simply staying home as new infections rise, doctors say donor pools have shrunk to alarmingly low levels, menacing urgent operations. 

AstraZeneca's new Covid-19 antibody therapy gives hope to people who are immunocompromised 

Business Day 20 August 2021 - British drugmaker's new antibody therapy reduced the risk of people developing any Covid-19 symptoms by 77% in a late-stage trial Trial data from AstraZeneca on Friday raised the prospect of a new treatment to prevent Covid-19 beyond vaccines, giving hope in particular for people who respond poorly to immunisation shots. 

The British drugmaker said its new antibody therapy reduced the risk of people developing any Covid-19 symptoms by 77% in a late-stage trial. While vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop an arsenal of targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells, AstraZeneca's AZD7442 therapy consists of lab-made antibodies that are designed to linger in the body for months to stifle the coronavirus in case of an infection. 

Severe Covid-19 breakthrough cases mostly in older people with comorbidities 

Business Day 20 August 2021 - Israeli data suggests booster shots given in the past few weeks are cutting the risk of infection in older people compared with those who received only two doses In Israel’s Covid-19 wards, doctors are learning which vaccinated patients are most vulnerable to severe illness, amid growing concerns about instances in which the shots provide less protection against the worst forms of the disease. 

About half of the country's 600 patients presently hospitalised with severe illness have received two doses of the Pfizer shot, a rare occurrence out of 5.4-million fully vaccinated people. The majority of these patients received two vaccine doses at least five months ago, are over the age of 60 years and also have chronic illnesses known to exacerbate a coronavirus infection. They range from diabetes to heart disease and lung ailments, as well as cancers and inflammatory diseases that are treated with immune-system suppressing drugs, according to Reuters interviews with 11 doctors, health specialists and officials. Such “breakthrough” cases have become central to a global debate over whether highly vaccinated countries should give booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines, and to which people. 

Alert level 3 will go on as third wave refuses to decline, Joe Phaahla says 

Business Day 20 August 2021 - Alert level 3 of the lockdown will continue, health minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday. 

Briefing the media about the Covid-19 pandemic, Phaahla said the national coronavirus command council and the cabinet had made the decision due to the third wave of the local outbreak remaining “stubbornly in our midst”. The number of new infections had increased 18.2% over the past seven days, Phaahla said, with the resurgence being driven by the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape. Announcing the continuation of alert level 3, Phaahla said: “We remain hopeful that ... we can start to see a decisive flattening of the curve in the next two weeks.” He said he was encouraged that hospital admissions over the past seven days had declined 5.4%. On Thursday, the number of vaccination doses administered passed 10-million, and Phaahla said more than half of the key over-60 age group had received at least one dose. 

EU says deal to use Aspen plant in SA to bottle vaccines is temporary 

Business Day 191 August 2021 - WHO criticises deal in which SA bottles shots for the EU while Africa is grappling with low vaccination 

The European Commission said on Thursday it has struck a temporary deal to use the Aspen plant in SA to bottle Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccines that are being imported into the EU. The deal highlights the complexity of producing vaccines with factories spread across the world and is likely to stir concerns about drugmakers’ power in negotiating supply deals with countries. Under the deal, SA drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare bottles the vaccine substance produced elsewhere and then transfers the finished doses to SA and the EU. 

WHO official says no ‘vaccine equity’ as use of Covid-19 booster shot gains pace 

Business Day 19 August 2021 - Matshidiso Moeti says richer countries have, on average, administered more than 103 vaccine doses per 100 people, and in Africa that number is six 

The rollout of Covid-19 booster shots by a growing number of wealthy nations makes a “mockery of vaccine equity,” World Health Organisation (WHO) director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said. “High-income countries have already, on average, administered more than 103 Covid-19 vaccine doses per 100 people, whereas in Africa that number stands at six,” Moeti told reporters during a weekly virtual briefing on Thursday. Nations from Israel to the US have either started administering booster shots or plan to as the contagious Delta variant threatens efforts to end the pandemic. Health officials across Africa have warned against doing so with less than 2% of the continent fully vaccinated against the virus. 

Covid-19 vaccines found to be less effective against Delta variant 

Business Day 19 August 2021 - UK study could strengthen drive for booster shots for people who received Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines Covid-19 vaccines are less effective against the Delta variant, according to a large UK study, whose results that may fuel a push for booster shots for fully vaccinated people. 

 The messenger RNA vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech lost effectiveness 90 days after full vaccination, though their shots and the one made by AstraZeneca still staved off a majority of Covid infections. When vaccinated people did get infected with Delta, they had similar levels of virus in their bodies as those who hadn’t had been vaccinated, backing up a recent assessment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

HPCSA’s new president ponders the poisoned chalice 

Medical Brief 18 August 2o21 - On the kindest reading, the guardedness of Prof Mbulaheni Simon Nemutandani, the new President of the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) is understandable – he inherited a controversial, debilitated and dysfunctional outfit, writes Chris Bateman in an exclusive interview for MedicalBrief with the former dentist and public health expert. 

The HPCSA was established in 1974 via legislation to provide for control over the education, training and registration of health professionals under the Health Professions Act. When challenged with the view that the council’s track record is miserable and its image battered, (the evidence over the past decade is damning), Nemutandani is silent, but he forcefully rejects any contention that it’s dysfunctional. He provides all his comments in writing after declining an online, face-to-face MedicalBrief interview, asking instead for questions to be e-mailed. 

SAMA will not support doctors facing disinformation charges 

Medical Brief 18 August 2021 - The SA Medical Association will not support any medical practitioner facing charges of disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines in the aftermath of Cape Town heart surgeon Dr Susan Vosloo’s anti-vaccination message that surfaced on the internet last week. 

Daily Maverick reports SAMA chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee as saying the organisation was dismayed at reports that some healthcare workers — including doctors — have discouraged patients from getting COVID-19 vaccinations based on doubts about vaccine safety and effectiveness. The organisation’s statement was released after a video in which Vosloo made various statements about COVID-19 vaccines. Her claims, which were authoritatively debunked by Media Monitoring Africa, are likely to land her in hot water, with many organisations calling for steps to be taken against her, adds Daily Maverick. 

Road Accident Fund legal fees and payouts to be overhauled 

Business Day 18 August 2021 - Changes outlined by the transport minister are part of a five-year turnaround plan 

Bringing the troubled Road Accident Fund (RAF) back to financial stability will require an urgent regulatory and operational overhaul, including the fast-tracking of claims and doing away with lump-sum payments to car-crash victims, transport minister Fikile Mbalula told MPs on Wednesday. The regulatory and operational overhaul would focus on reducing the number of days it takes to process a claim from the current 1,475 days to 120 days. This will also reduce the need for litigation, thus cutting legal fees, which is a major cost burden for the fund, Mbalula said. He said the proposed changes to RAF operations were part of a five-year plan to turn around the entity. 

SA vaccination drive has lost momentum, says deputy minister

Business Day 17 August 2021 - The 35-50 age group has turned out to be a vaccine-shy bunch, says ‘worried’ health department 

The national department of health on Tuesday conceded that its Covid-19 vaccination programme has lost momentum due to vaccine hesitancy. President Cyril Ramaphosa made a pronouncement a few weeks ago that he wanted to see the department vaccinating up to 300,000 South Africans a day. The government’s target is to get 70% of the adult population jabbed by the end of the year. “We were excited when we were sitting at about 275,000 on July 21, but we are now down to about 175,000 vaccinations per day.