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05 September 2021
Health department supports mandatory vaccinations for some industries 

Business Day 05 September 2021 – The Health Department wants mandatory vaccination in certain industries. 

But while jabbing was important, acting director-general Nicholas Crisp said forcing vaccination by law was the wrong approach. Crisp made these comments during a televised debate Newzroom Afrika aired on Sunday that included deputy justice minister John Jeffrey, Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach and public health lawyer Safura Abdool Carrim. Jeffrey repeated President Cyril Ramaphosa’s answer to the National Assembly on Friday. He had said: “No-one should be forced to be vaccinated. Instead we need to use the available scientific evidence to encourage people to be vaccinated to protect themselves and the people about them. “At the same time‚ our occupational‚ health and safety laws require that we ensure a safe working environment. This situation poses challenges for employers who want to keep their workers safe from Covid-19‚ while respecting the rights of those who don’t want to be vaccinated.” 

US drug firms say $26bn opioid settlement will proceed 

Business Day 05 September 2021 - Distributors say 42 states, five territories and Washington have signed on to deal resolving claims they fuelled opioid epidemic 

Three large US drug distributors and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will proceed with a proposed $26bn settlement resolving claims that they fuelled the opioid epidemic after “enough” states joined in, the companies said. The companies had until Saturday to decide whether enough states back the $21bn proposed settlement with McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health and a $5bn agreement with J&J. 

Wealthy states will have 1.2-billion surplus jabs by the end of 2021 

Business Day 05 September 2021 - Analytics firm Airfinity says developed states could roll out boosters and still redistribute supplies 

Wealthy countries face mounting pressure to divert Covid-19 vaccine supplies to lower-income regions, with a new analysis showing they’ll probably have about 1.2-billion extra doses available by the end of 2021. The US, Britain, European nations and others could satisfy their own needs — vaccinating about 80% of their populations over the age of 12 and moving ahead with booster programmes — and still have large quantities to redistribute globally, according to London-based analytics firm Airfinity.  

Implementation of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations is a delicate balance, Ramaphosa say

Business Day 03 September 2021 - Workers have a right to decline vaccinations on medical and constitutional grounds, but employers equally have a right to protect employees 

Workers have a right to decline Covid-19 vaccinations on medical and constitutional grounds, but employers equally have a right to protect employees and ensure efficient operation of their businesses, President Cyril Ramaphosa says. The implementation of mandatory vaccinations must be based on mutual respect and constitutional rights in what he described as “quite a delicate balance that needs to be struck”. 

Lockdown level 3 may soon be eased as cases decline, Joe Phaahla says 

Business Day 03 September 2021 - The health minister says the government is not oblivious to the pressure for eased restrictions 

Health minister Joe Phaahla dropped a broad hint on Friday that his department will recommend an easing of the alert level 3 lockdown next week. Giving a media briefing at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital vaccination site in Soweto, Phaahla said he was encouraged by the decline in the third wave of Covid-19 in most provinces. “We are hoping that KwaZulu-Natal will start to decline and Eastern Cape will stabilise,” he said. “We will give a report to the president in the next week and if it becomes clear that there is stability we will give the necessary advice.” Phaahla said the government was not oblivious to the pressure for eased restrictions. 

Nicholas Crisp appointed as acting health director-general 

Business Day 02 September 2021 - Crisp says he has been asked to 'hold the fort' for a minimum of 10 days Nicholas Crisp has been appointed acting director-general of the national health department following the suspension of Sandile Buthelezi. 

Buthelezi was asked to go on leave, reportedly after he was questioned about his role in the R150m Digital Vibes scandal. His suspension and the appointment of an acting head come as the country’s vaccination programme is stalling. It also follows soon after the appointment of a new minister and deputy minister to head the crucial department that is tasked with managing and controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Aspen looks to expand vaccine production in SA beyond Covid-19 

Business Day 02 September 2021 - Aspen has capacity to produce 1.35-billion vaccine doses at its Gqeberha facility and is now using less than a quarter of that to help make J&J’s Covid-19 shot 

Aspen Pharmacare, SA’s biggest pharmaceutical manufacturer, is in discussions to expand its vaccine production capacity beyond Covid-19 to jabs for other diseases, CEO Stephen Saad said on Thursday. Aspen has the capacity to produce up to 1.35-billion vaccine doses at its sterile manufacturing facility in Gqeberha, and is currently using less than a quarter of that capacity to help make Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J)’s Covid-19 shot. It aims to ramp up Covid-19 vaccine production from 300-million to 450-million doses a year by February, and to 700-million doses a year by January 2023, but would still have scope to make other kinds of shots, said Saad. “What we’d like is to expand production to include other products and have a spread of vaccines,” he said in an interview with Business Day. Aspen had “many opportunities for transactions” and was looking to close “a couple” of deals for vaccines that were used in high volumes in the developing world, including childhood vaccines, he said. 

Zweli Mkhize may face criminal charges over Digital Vibes, says SIU 

Business Day 01 September 2021 - Forensic investigator says evidence is pointing to criminality and failure to execute his job in line with constitution 

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize could face criminal charges for his role in the Digital Vibes contract, in which associates of his were awarded an irregular R150m communication contract by the department. In a presentation to the standing committee on public accounts, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said Mkhize may have committed actions of criminality and failed to execute his function in compliance with the constitution, general oversight responsibilities in respect of the affairs of the national health department and obligations in terms of section 63 of the Public Finance Management Act. 

Egypt ramps up vaccine production 

Business Day 01 September 2021 - Country aims to become a hub for vaccine exports to Africa Egypt is ramping up production of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine as it aims to become a hub for vaccine exports to Africa and protect its own population of more than 100-million from a fourth wave of infections. 

The government is preparing new facilities that it says could produce several million vaccine doses daily, and is also in talks with an unspecified European vaccine producer. “We are in discussions with other companies because it is important to us that we diversify our sources, and hopefully soon we will announce our partnership with a European company,” said Dr Heba Wali, president of the state-run Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (Vacsera). 

SA deaths aren’t linked to Covid-19 vaccines, regulator says 

Business Day 01 September 2021 - Sahpra says there is no evidence of a causal link between coronavirus vaccines and the 51 deaths reported among people who had recently received the shots SA’s medicines regulator has found no evidence of a causal link between coronavirus vaccines and the deaths reported among people who had recently received the shots, parliament heard on Wednesday. 

SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) CEO Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela told MPs that as of August 13, 51 deaths after Covid-19 vaccination had been reported to the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (NISEC), a non-statutory body appointed by the health minister. Thirty of the 32 investigations that had been completed were deemed to be coincidental, and there was insufficient information provided on the other two, Semete-Makokotlela told members of the health portfolio committee.  

State considers vaccine passports for businesses and public amenitie

Business Day 01 September 2o21 - Business owners and the government could legally require users of their facilities to be vaccinated As SA’s coronavirus vaccination drive gathers pace, the government is exploring the scope for businesses and public amenities to demand proof of vaccination from patrons, health minister Joe Phaahla told parliament on Tuesday.

 Phaahla said he was "quite certain" that once SA had attained sufficient vaccine coverage, business owners and the government could legally require the users of their facilities to be vaccinated. "Our own preference would be for people to come voluntarily. But you can’t have your cake and eat it. If you want to enjoy your right not to be vaccinated, you can’t also say you have the right to put other people at risk," he told the National Council of Provinces. People who had been vaccinated were less likely to transmit the virus if they became infected, because they had a lower viral load than people who had not been inoculated, Phaahla said. SA has recorded more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other African nation but has so far fully vaccinated only 14.6% of its adult population.

COVID linked to year’s 43% surge in policyholders' death claims 

Medical Brief 01 September 2021 - Mortality claims statistics from the insurance industry show that more than a million policyholders died in the most recent one-year measurement period, which the sector says is “no doubt” linked to COVID- 19. 

According to BusinessLIVE, the Association for Savings and Investment SA (Asisa) statistics show that 1,023,083 policyholders died between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 — a 43% increase on the 713,350 deaths over the corresponding period in the previous year. The stats include claims made against individual life, group life policies offered by employers, credit life and funeral policies. Total payouts totalled R47.58bn. The claims support arguments that actual deaths from the pandemic may be far higher than the official 81,830 deaths that had been recorded by Tuesday afternoon. Many deaths, particularly in impoverished and marginalised communities, occur before a COVID-19 diagnosis can be made. 

 Experimental HIV vaccine fails to protect Southern African women 

Business Day 31 August 2021 - J&J trial vaccine, which uses the same technology as successful shots against Covid-19 and Ebola, cut the risk of infection by just 25.2%, a rate too low to satisfy regulators 

An experimental Johnson & Johnson (J&J) HIV vaccine that uses the same technology as successful shots against Covid-19 and Ebola, has failed to provide women in Southern Africa with significant protection against the virus, researchers said on Tuesday. The disappointing results are the latest in a long history of setbacks to the global effort to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine, which remains elusive more than 30 years after the virus that causes Aids was discovered. Preliminary analysis of the phase 2b study known as HVTN 705, or Imbokodo, which means “rock” in isiZulu, found the vaccine cut the risk of infection by just 25.2%, a rate too low to satisfy regulators. 

Visits to US doctors are becoming a walk in the park 

Business Day 31 August 2021 - Prescriptions are now being written for time spent in nature instead of drugs 

With the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting the health benefits of spending more time outdoors, a growing faction of the US medical community is prescribing time outside the same way they would traditional medication. The idea of writing out park or nature prescriptions has taken hold particularly among paediatricians. “It all came together” during the pandemic, said Maya Moody, president-elect of the Missouri chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pointing to spikes in childhood anxiety and paediatric obesity since the coronavirus outbreak started.