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30 August 2021
WATCH: Life Esidimeni Inquest resumes at Pretoria High Court 

The Citizen 30 August 2021 - The Life Esidimeni Inquest will be heard by the Pretoria High Court today. 

The inquiry has to determine whether any party should be held criminally liable for the deaths of 144 psychiatric patients, which occurred between April 2016 and January 2017. Many of the patients died from pneumonia, dehydration and diarrhoea, after the patients were transferred from private hospitals to under-resourced facilities in an attempt to cut costs. 

Meet the non-vaccines that promise to boost Covid-19 immunity 

Business Day 30 August 2021 - Vaccines never promised us perfect protection. 

Yet studies are showing that our defences are declining faster than expected. One from Oxford University published last week showed that the efficacy of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine was halved after four months. Another, published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control, reported that since the Delta variant became predominant, the efficacy of mRNA vaccines against infection decreased to 66% from 91% among front-line workers. If Covid-19 vaccines are a leaky roof, how do we plug the gaps? Most of the discussion so far has focused on booster shots as the best way to top up immunity levels. That’s understandable. Wednesday’s announcement by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, that a booster dose of their vaccines produced more than three times the neutralising antibodies of the second dose, will surely add to the clamour for a third shot. 

SA lawyers launch medical class action against use of pelvic mesh device 

Business Day 29 August 2021 - Two legal firms are taking five companies to court over the device which has caused suffering among women worldwide 

A group of lawyers are launching a class action over defective trans-vaginal mesh devices which have caused women worldwide to suffer. The decision to launch the class action follows a legal victory in Australia two years ago. Trans-vaginal mesh are net-like medical devices that doctors use to repair weakened or damaged tissue in a woman’s bladder or pelvic area. The word trans-vaginal refers to the surgical technique doctors use to implant the mesh through a vagina. RH Lawyers and Richard Spoor Attorneys will bring the medical lawsuit against Coloplast, the Nu-Angle Group, Johnson & Johnson, Ethicon and Ashanti Medical. Zain Lundell, a class action specialist at RH lawyers, said thousands of South Africans deserve justice, after the devices which were supposed to make their lives more comfortable, brought them pain.  

Discovery says UK’s lower Covid-19 death rate shows value of jabs 

Business Day 30 August 2021 - Britain credits its early programme for curbing its fatalities in the third wave of the pandemic 

Discovery Holdings says Covid-19 mortality was worse in SA than in the UK and underscores the urgency and critical role of an effective vaccination rollout initiative to curb the virus. In a trading update on Friday, Discovery, which runs SA’s largest private health insurer, said the UK’s early vaccination programme limited deaths during the third wave of infections. The Financial Times reported last week that the programme saved more than 100,000 lives there. By Friday, at least 90.1-million Covid-19 vaccine doses had been administered in the UK, which is 67.4% of the population, according to Bloomberg Covid-19 tracker. In SA, 11.6-million doses had been given by Friday to 11.7% of the population. 

Medical aid pain coming as schemes struggle to juggle costs of pandemic 

The Citizen 27 August 2021 - Fedhealth’s largest Covid hospital account so far has been R4 million Consumers can prepare themselves for a rude awakening, as medical schemes are struggling to balance the costs of the Covid pandemic. 

This could result in rate hikes higher than the usual above inflation increases, as there are no signs of the pandemic ending soon, with concerns that SA will soon be entering a fourth wave. With experts predicting that full recovery from the pandemic may only be achieved in 2024 and a possible two-year period of medical schemes balancing Covid cases, as well as normal claims, medical schemes will be looking to financially recover. Jeremy Yatt, principal officer for Fedhealth Medical Scheme, says up to July, it had paid R375 million in Covid expenditure since the onset of the pandemic. 

Young adults give vaccine drive a shot in the arm 

Business Day 27 August 2021 - Health minister Joe Phaahla says the average number of vaccinations has topped 240,000 daily this week after the rollout was opened to all adults 

The enthusiasm among younger South Africans to be vaccinated has driven the daily numbers up again: the average number of vaccinations has topped 240,000 daily this week after the rollout opened to all adults, health minister Dr Joe Phaahla said on Friday. More than 560,000 people aged 18 to 34 years registered for vaccination on the first day they were eligible, August 20, and 81,000 of them were vaccinated on the same day. Vaccinations are proceeding well since SA has a stable supply and the ability to deliver them to people, and there is an appetite for people to receive vaccines, said Phaahla. Until vaccinations opened up to all adults, the numbers were lagging again across the country. 

After murder of health official, SIU seeks to protect witnesses 

Business Day 27 August 2021 - Gauteng health’s chief director of financial accounting, Babita Deokaran, was murdered after giving evidence about corruption involving PPE in the province 

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is concerned about the safety of whistle-blowers and witnesses and has put measures in place to ensure their safety, it said in a statement Friday. It is also considering further protection for its investigators. Its statement was prompted by public concern about witness protection after the murder of Gauteng department of health chief director of financial accounting Babita Deokaran, who gave evidence about the corruption involving personal protective equipment (PPE) in the province. Seven suspects have been arrested in relation to the murder. Deokaran was one of the more than 320 witnesses in the ongoing investigation into PPE tender corruption and procurement irregularities in both the public and private sector. 


People who had earlier Covid-19 less likely to get Delta than those vaccinated with Pfizer 

Business Day 27 August 2021 - But giving even a single shot of the vaccine to those who were previously infected also seems to boost their protection 

People who recovered from a bout of Covid-19 during one of the earlier waves of the pandemic appear to have a lower risk of contracting the Delta variant than those who got two doses of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech. The largest real-world analysis comparing natural immunity — gained from an earlier infection — to the protection provided by one of the most potent vaccines currently in use showed that reinfections were much less common. The paper from researchers in Israel contrasts with earlier studies, which showed that immunisation offered better protection than an earlier infection, though those studies were not of the Delta variant. 


HPCSA registrar David Motau vows to challenge his suspension 

Business Day 26 August 2021 - The CEO of the health-care professions regulator allegedly did not disclose that he was implicated in a criminal investigation 

Health minister Joe Phaahla has suspended CEO and registrar of the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) David Motau a second time, for allegedly not disclosing that he was implicated in a criminal investigation when he applied for the position. Phaahla states in a letter to Motau that he had consulted with the council and, subsequent to the meeting, took a decision to suspend him. “In addition to the criminal charges that the state has levelled against you, you have failed to ... state the existence of a criminal investigation against you by the SA Police Service when you should have done so,” the letter reads. Motau is charged with contravening the Public Finance Management Act. He was released on bail of R5,000 when he appeared in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court this month. 


Delays and head-scratching over R180m drug debt to Cuba 

Business Day 26 August 2021 - Opposition parties want SANDF bosses and former defence minister to be held accountable for the scandal 

The government, which is still to take action against army officials who illegally imported an unproven drug from Cuba at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, is still facing a R180m bill from the island nation. The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) faced criticism for violating acquisition rules and health regulatory protocols to procure Heberon Interferon-Alpha-2B, an unregistered drug that is said to considerably strengthen the immune system. The medical drugs were imported in 2020 at the peak of the first wave of Covid-19 infections, without approval from the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority, and stored in premises not licensed by the regulator. 


Mandatory vaccines an opportunity 

Business Day 25 August 2o21 - One of the most contentious issues worldwide is whether people should be forced get a Covid-19 vaccine shot. 

While the issue has been largely skirted the world over, including here in SA, the recent approval of Pfizer’s vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may give employers the confidence to mandate inoculations. Lobby groups around the world have rallied against having to be told whether they should be vaccinated. For the most part, companies that would prefer to have a vaccinated workforce have not been overt about it. Given that many “anti-vaxers” have not trusted these drugs as they didn’t have full FDA approval, this week’s news is likely a game-changer. Such approval reduces the liability on companies that can simply defer to the FDA as having greenlit the drugs. 

Vaccine booster after six months provides stronger protection, says J&J 

Business Day 25 August 2021 - People who receive Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot Covid-19 jab could benefit from a follow-up shot later in 2021 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said on Wednesday a booster of its Covid-19 vaccine provided a rapid and strong increase in antibodies, supporting use of a second shot among people who previously received its single-dose immunisation. 

A second dose of the J&J vaccine led to a ninefold increase in Covid-fighting antibodies compared with the levels participants had 28 days after getting their first shot, the health-care giant said, citing interim data from an early-stage trial. Trial participants were given the booster six months after the first shot, according to J&J. 

Partying KZN Health MEC ‘regrets’ throwing face masks out the window 

Medical Brief 25 August 2021 - Shortly after calling on inhabitants of the KwaZulu-Natal to adhere to COVID-19 regulations in the face of a third wave in the province

The Health MEC held a riotous birthday party at which the same regulations were ignored, with pictures being leaked of her and her guests throwing their masks out the window, writes MedicalBrief. The Democratic Alliance has called for a probe into provincial health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu after a video surfaced of her partying up a storm on Sunday and she and her guests throwing their face masks out of the window. The video and pictures were leaked to TimesLIVE, and show the MEC breaching various COVID protocols – including dancing and hugging many of her guests, while not wearing masks. There is loud music, singing and dancing with no mask-wearing or social distancing. 

Discovery: Data show 80% of South Africans may have had COVID-19 

Medical Brief 25 August 2021 - As many as four out of five South Africans may have contracted COVID-19, indicating that the country may be one of the worldʼs hardest-hit nations by the disease, according to the chief actuary at Discovery Health, reports Bloomberg. 

Chief Actuary Emile Stipp based his calculations on the countryʼs case-fatality rate and excess deaths, a measure of the number of fatalities compared with a historical average. They are thought to provide a more accurate picture of the impact of the pandemic than the official toll. “If we know the mortality rate of COVID, we can deduce the likely infection level,” Stipp said in an emailed response to questions. The infection rate of between 70% and 80%, as estimated by Stipp, is high by global standards. That could push South Africa close to so-called herd immunity, estimated at between 80% and 90% by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Still, itʼs possible that the delta variant of the virus could reinfect those who contracted other strains. 

Cannabis use a threat to adolescents’ mental health, says departmen

Business Day 24 August 2021 - Teenagers are at risk of ‘arrested psychosocial development’ that could lead to other medical consequences, health department’s deputy director-general says 

Adolescents are at greater risk of mental health issues arising from using cannabis, and this could increase with the legalisation of cannabis for private use, the Department of Health said. In September 2018 the Constitutional Court ruled that the private use of cannabis by adults was not unlawful and gave parliament 24 months to process legislation which would decriminalise it.