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13 September 2021

SA targets improved vaccine coverage for adults before offering jabs to children

Business Day 13 September 2021 – Authorities weighing when to vaccinate children

The government has yet to decide on when to offer coronavirus vaccines to children as it weighs up competing demands for the limited stock it procured for the adult population, a top health official said on Sunday. SA’s medicines regulator announced on Friday that it had granted emergency-use authorisation for Pfizer’s coronavirus shot to be used in children as young as 12, but it is only the first step towards bringing them into the national inoculation programme. The government is offering jabs to anyone aged 18 and above and aims to reach 40-million people, or 70% of the adult population. SA had by Saturday evening administered more than 14.67-million vaccine doses, but only 7.187-million people, or 17.9%, of the adult population were fully immunised. “We do want to vaccinate children, but we need to get to the elderly and undocumented first,” said acting health director-general Nicholas Crisp. 

READ IN FULL: President encourages more people to get vaccinated

Business Day 12 September 2021 - President encourages more people to get vaccinated and reassures on safety

President Cyril Ramaphosa updates the nation on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. My Fellow South Africans,  This evening, I would like to begin by telling you about the experience we have had as a nation in one week in the work we are doing in the healthcare system in one of our provinces.  Between the dates of 14 and 20 August this year, the Western Cape department of health compiled figures on people above the age of 60 who were infected with Covid-19. Only 30 out of 729 people above the age of 60 who were admitted to hospital for Covid-19 that week had been vaccinated. This means that 699 of those were not vaccinated. 

Sinovac’s partner says talks are under way to set up SA vaccine production facility

Business Day 12 September 2021 - Numolux made the announcement as Sinovac launched a Covid-19 vaccine trial for children in SA

Numolux Group CEO Hilton Klein made the comments  at the launch of the SA leg of a global phase 3 trial of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine in children and adolescents. “This clinical trial is a precursor to the establishment of a SA vaccine manufacturing facility partnered by Sinovac and Numolux Group that will cover the entire spectrum of vaccinations beyond just the Covid-19 response,” Klein told a news conference. 

Vaccine-evading variants could arise in Africa, study shows

Business Day 10 September 2021 - African and international organisations say low rates of vaccination on the continent could lead to Covid-19 mutations

The proliferation of Covid-19 variants in Africa, partly attributed to the low rates of vaccination on the continent, could lead to vaccine-evading mutations that complicate attempts to end the pandemic, a group of 112 African and 25 international organisations said. A study of genomes from 33 African nations and two “overseas territories,” published in the journal Science on Thursday, tracks the evolution of the pandemic across the continent and the emergence of a number of so-called Variants of Concern (VOC) and Variants of Interest (VOI). One of those, Beta, spread around the globe earlier this year and rendered some vaccines partially ineffective. The “slow rollout of vaccines in most African countries creates an environment in which the virus can replicate and evolve,”  the organisations said. “This will almost certainly produce additional VOCs, any of which could derail the global fight against Covid-19.” While more than half of the population of the US and more than 60% of people living in the EU are fully vaccinated, just 3.2% of Africa’s 1.2-billion people have been fully dosed. That has resulted in a third wave of infections in many countries and the emergence of a new variant in SA known as C.1.2. 

Sinovac set to launch phase 3 trial of Covid-19 vaccine in children in SA

Business Day 09 September 2021 - China has administered about 60-million doses to 40-million children, and has found it to be very safe, the trial’s principal co-ordinator for SA Sanet Aspinall says

Sinovac set to launch phase 3 trial of Covid-19 vaccine in children in SA. China has administered about 60-million doses to 40-million children, and has found it to be very safe, the trial’s principal co-ordinator for SA Sanet Aspinall says. Scientists are poised to launch a phase 3 paediatric clinical trial of Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech’s coronavirus vaccine in SA, as part of an international study that aims to evaluate the efficacy of two doses of the Coronavac shot. The research is an important step towards obtaining regulatory approval for paediatric use of the vaccine. The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority has so far only granted Coronavac emergency use authorisation for adults aged between 18 and 59 years. The jab is, however, authorised in China for children as young as three years. 

Africa needs first and second jabs more than rich nations need a third

Business Day 09 September 2021 - Africa CDC head John Nkengasong says such programmes in the West make it hard for Africa to meet its target for vaccinating 60%-70% of people

Rich nations would do better to send vaccines to Africa to help fight the global Covid-19 pandemic rather than hoarding them for third-dose booster shots that scientific evidence does not back, the AU’s top health official said on Thursday. Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director John Nkengasong told a news conference he was baffled that some rich countries were disregarding World Health Organisation (WHO) advice to hold off on administering booster shots until more people were fully vaccinated worldwide. 

Sanlam mandates vaccinations but will not fire workers who refuse jab

Business Day 09 September 2021 - CEO Paul Hanratty says the policy will take effect from January 1 ‘so staff have plenty of time to get their shots’

Sanlam, Africa’s largest nonbank financial services group, will join Discovery in imposing mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all staff from 2022, though it says it won’t fire workers who refuse the jab. 

Covid-19 vaccines offer strong protection to healthcare workers and elderly, Western Cape data show

Business Day 09 September 2021 - The risk of death from Covid-19 is 3.3 times higher among unvaccinated public-sector healthcare workers compared to vaccinated staff

The coronavirus vaccines administered in the Western Cape are providing strong protection against severe illness and death from Covid-19 among healthcare workers and the elderly, according to data released by the provincial health department on Thursday. The risk of death from Covid-19 was 3.3 times higher among unvaccinated public-sector healthcare workers compared to vaccinated staff, according to its analysis of its employees registered on the government personnel and salary system, Persal. The risk of death was 1 in 480 among unvaccinated healthcare workers compared to 1 in 1,490 among staff who were fully immunised. 


1 Military Hospital loses UN and AU accreditation

Medical Brief 08 September 2021 - The Joint Standing Committee on Defence is “extremely concerned” by the R1bn of never ending repair and maintenance programme (Ramp) at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, which has contributed to it losing its accreditation as a level-4 hospital by the African Union and United Nations to support external and international peace-keeping operations.

BusinessTech reports that the committee has asked for a forensic report commissioned by the former chief of the SA National Defence Force and progress so far in implementing that report’s recommendations. “We find it problematic that the Ramp that started in 2005/2006 financial year is yet to be concluded … the project is turning into a milking cow with no end in sight, which negatively affects the fiscus,” said Elleck Nchabeleng, the co-chairperson of the committee. 

Covax slashes vaccine delivery target

Business Day 08 September 2021 - Deliveries to poorer countries will fall short of 2-billion target to deliver jabs

The international vaccine-sharing facility Covax expects to receive just 1.425-billion doses of Covid-19 jabs from donors this year, a far cry from its July estimate of 2-billion, highlighting the risk facing countries that depend on it for their vaccines. The SA government drew sharp criticism late last year for being slow to sign up to Covax, but subsequently secured millions of doses through bilateral agreements with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer/BioNTech. These bilateral agreements have delivered the lion’s share of the 13.89-million doses administered in SA so far, putting SA far ahead of many African countries that expected all their needs to be met by Covax. 

Drop in vaccine efficacy and unvaccinated drive Israel’s Covid-19 surge

Business Day 07 September 2021 - Israel has seen cases climb but the seriously sick have risen less than during the last coronavirus wave

Israel, once a frontrunner in the global race to move on from Covid-19, is now one of the world’s biggest pandemic hotspots. The country that was once predicted to be the first to vaccinate its entire population had the highest per capita caseload in the week to September 4, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Its world-beating inoculation rate, meanwhile, has tumbled down the league table. The nation of 9-million became the test case for reopening society and the economy in April when much of Europe and the US were still in some form of lockdown. Yet Israel now shows how the calculus is changing in places where progress has been fastest. It is no longer just about whether people get coronavirus, but also how badly they get it and ensuring that vaccines are still working as the infectious Delta variant threatens to undermine immunity. 

Medical deans call for mandatory jabs for healthcare students and workers

Business Day 07 September 2021 - Compulsory vaccination for the sector is ‘a moral imperative’ as healthcare workers are at particularly high risk of contracting the virus, academics say

The deans of SA’s medical and dental schools have recommended compulsory coronavirus vaccination for their students and the general healthcare workforce, arguing it will protect individuals from serious illness and help slow the spread of the disease. Healthcare workers are at particularly high risk because their jobs often expose them to high levels of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. 

Former NHLS head Joyce Mogale in court for alleged corruption

Business Day 07 September 2021 - A former CEO at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) is in hot water for alleged tender corruption that took place in 2016 involving more than R113m.

Joyce Mogale appeared at the Palm Ridge specialised commercial crime court and was released on R20‚000 bail on Monday. The allegations are that Mogale signed a contract with Blue Future Internet and Surveillance for the provision‚ maintenance and support of end-user computer hardware for three years. The adjusted contract stipulated that the amount involved was not to exceed R83m‚ whereas the letter of acceptance of the offer made it clear that the value of the contract was only above R25m. 

Survey finds 62% of South Africans will definitely accept a Covid-19 shot

Business Day 07 September 2o21 - Sixty-two percent of South Africans say they are willing to get a coronavirus vaccine, and another 11% are still sitting on the fence, according to research commissioned by the Solidarity Fund and the government.

The level of vaccine acceptance identified in the research, conducted by Ask Afrika, was lower than that found in recent surveys by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and the Nids-Cram 5 survey, which found vaccine acceptance of 72% and 71%, respectively. But it is higher than a recent Afrobarometer survey, which found only 43% of participants would definitely get a shot. 

New Covid-19 variant spread slower in SA in August than in July

Business Day 07 September 2021 - This could indicate it is unlikely to become dominant in the ways previous mutations such as the Beta and Delta variants have become

SA scientists say a new Covid-19 variant, with a concerning number of mutations, spread at a slower rate in August than it did in July. The so-called C.1.2 variant accounted for just 1.5% of all virus samples sequenced in the country in August compared with 2.2% in July, according to the Network for Genomic Surveillance SA. The variant, first identified in SA, has been found in a number of countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Portugal, New Zealand and Switzerland. 

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.”