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19 September 2021

Medical aid crisis for post office staff

Sunday Times 19 September 2021 – Thousands set to lose cover after SAPO fails to pay contributions

About 15 000 South African Post Office employees and pensioners may have no medical aid from next month after the Medipos medical scheme told them it was cutting them off because it is owed R602m in member contributions by the postal service.

Doctors in new turf war with pharmacists over ‘unlawful and unfair’ competition

Medical Brief - Proposed changes to the Pharmacy Guidelines are “unlawful, unfair and not in the patients’ best interests”, says the SA Medical Association , while the SA Private Practitioners Forum says it found the moves “deeply concerning”, with pharmacists possibly operating “far beyond their competency”, writes MedicalBrief. The dispute is part of a turf war between the two professions.

The dispute reflects increasing competition between pharmacists and medical practitioners, what Casper Venter, MD of independent health care consultancy Healthman described as “a turf war”, with medical practitioners alarmed at the erosion of the role traditionally played by GPs. Last month, there was a similarly strong reaction from doctor organisations to the gazetting of proposals that pharmacists be allowed to manage patients for antiretroviral treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), in order “to increase the public’s access to health services”. 

Sinovac’s SA-based Covid-19 vaccine facility should be going within three months

Business Day 16 September 2021 - Numolux expects the ‘fill-and-finish’ factory to produce 100-million doses a year once it is operating at full capacity

Sinovac Biotech’s SA partner plans to have a vaccine-making facility operational as early as the end of 2021 after the two companies started a Covid-19 inoculation trial in infants, children and adolescents. Numolux Group expects the so-called fill-and-finish factory to produce 100-million doses a year once it’s operating at full capacity, COO Anton Arendse said in an interview on Wednesday, without saying how long it may take to reach this output. The plant would eventually produce vaccines other than for Covid-19, he said. “The long-term plan is the manufacture and distribution of vaccines on the continent of Africa,” Arendse said. 

Pfizer says vaccine defence against Covid-19 wanes after 6-8 months

Business Day 15 September 2021 - A booster dose is safe and effective at warding off the virus and new variants, according to the company

Pfizer says that data from the US and Israel suggest that the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine wanes over time, and that a booster dose is safe and effective at warding off the virus and new variants. The company detailed the data in a presentation it will deliver to a meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday. The panel is expected to make recommendations for whether more Americans should receive booster shots. “Real-world data from Israel and the US suggest that rates of breakthrough infections are rising faster in individuals who were vaccinated earlier,” Pfizer said in its presentation, which was posted on the FDA website on Wednesday. The drug giant is partnering with Germany’s BioNTech to make the shots. 

BOITUMELO SEMETE-MAKOKOTELA: SA medicines regulator streamlines approval process for Covid-19 vaccines

Business Day 15 September 2021 - Sputnik V application is under review by Sahpra, including by the WHO for emergency use authorisation

In an effort to enable and support the country’s response in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has put in place a streamlined approach for the expedited review process for Covid-19 vaccines. Sahpra, as well as other regulators, have agreed on the minimum requirements to be met for the various countries to ensure the processes of reviewing Covid-19 vaccines are expedited. Each country considers the epidemiological context in their respective countries, including the prevalence of diseases such as HIV and TB. An additional critical consideration is vaccine efficacy, and effectiveness against the dominant variants of concern in each country.  

Just how often are people infected from bats with SARS-related coronaviruses?

Business Day 15 September 2021 - A median of 50,000 bat-to-human spillover events are estimated to occur in Southeast Asia annually, and the risk of exposure is even higher when you factor in all ‘intermediate’ animal species

Hundreds of thousands of people may be infected annually by animals carrying coronaviruses related to the one that causes Covid-19 in China and Southeast Asia, according to a study emphasising the ongoing pandemic threat from spillover events. An average of 400,000 such infections occur annually, most going unrecognised because they cause mild or no symptoms and are not easily transmitted between people, researchers with the EcoHealth Alliance and Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School said in a study released on Thursday before peer review and publication. Still, each spillover represents an opportunity for viral adaptation that could lead to a Covid-19-like outbreak. 

SA medicines regulator accused of blocking Sputnik vaccine

Business Day 14 September 2021 – SA’s medicines regulator has come under attack from the financial backers of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V, who say its failure to grant the product emergency use authorisation threatens to torpedo their plans to set up a manufacturing site in Cape Town.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) financed the Gamalaya Institute’s development of Sputnik V. It was the first Covid-19 vaccine to be registered for use in any country and is being used in more than 70 nations, including Hungary, Brazil and Zimbabwe. But the shot has yet to be approved by any of the regulators that the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) aligns itself with, such as the European Medicines Agency. Lamar International, the local representative for the RDIF and the Gamalaya Institute, applied to Sahpra for emergency use authorisation for Sputnik V in February shortly after The Lancet published data showing the vaccine had 92% efficacy. "We would like to build a vaccine production facility that can create jobs, but we cannot because we do not have emergency use authorisation," said RDIF’s Southern Africa representative, Artem Grigorian. 

Japan overtakes US in vaccination race

Business Day 14 September 2021 - Japan has given first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to 63.6% of its population, surpassing the US in the proportion of those who have had at least one shot of the vaccine despite starting months behind.

The island nation’s progress now puts the US last among G7 nations when it comes to the proportion of the population with at least one dose, after vaccine hesitancy squandered the country’s head start. About 63.1% of the US has had at least their first shot, and 53.8% are fully vaccinated. Japan has administered a total of 145.8-million shots, and over 51% of its population is fully vaccinated, according to government figures on Tuesday. 

SA’s Covid-19 deaths surpass 85,000

Business Day 13 September 2021 - Health institute reports 125 fatalities in 24 hours and 2,640 new infections

SA passed another grim Covid-19 milestone, with the country now having recorded more than 85,000 fatalities linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Monday that there were 125 Covid-19-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities since the outbreak of the pandemic in SA in March 2020 to 85,002. There were also 2,640 new Covid-19 cases recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the total confirmed infections to date to 2,860,835. Of the new cases, 864 were in the Eastern Cape and 601 were in KwaZulu-Natal. No other province passed the 500 mark for new daily infections, with the Free State recording 258, the Western Cape recording 240 and the Northern Cape recording 229. Gauteng recorded just 150 new infections. 

How to invest in the healthy future of vaccine stocks

Business Day 13 September 2021 - Vaccines for Zika, melanoma, HIV, Epstein-Barr and others are on the horizon

When investors try to identify the next exciting frontier for humankind, they may think of conquering outer space. But there’s a more vital one here on Earth. The vaccine industry and the vast ecosystem surrounding it had areas of rapid growth before the pandemic, with developments such as the approval of a new shingles vaccine by the US Food and Drug Administration. But the sector has exploded as companies race to develop Covid-19 vaccinations, treatments, booster shots and more. Some 299 vaccine candidates are listed on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covid-19 vaccine tracker, with 114 in some phase of clinical development and the other 185 in earlier stages. 

Warning of overcome hospitals when Covid-19 lockdowns are lifted in Australia

Business Day 13 September 2021 - Prof Raina MacIntyre says a second peak will hit New South Wales if restrictions are cut in October, when 70% of the adult population is vaccinated

Hospitals in Australia’s most populous state risk being overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases by the end of 2021 if the government’s reopening plan is executed, according to modelling from public health body OzSAGE, released on Monday. A second peak of infections will hit New South Wales state if restrictions are eased in October, when 70% of the adult population is inoculated, said Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales who conducted the modeling. A further easing when 80% of adults are fully vaccinated will cause a so-called “code black” situation where hospitals are overwhelmed over December and into January, she said.