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28 October 2021

Covid-19 leading cause of death in Discovery Life clients

Business Day 27  October 2021 - Discovery Life says Covid-19 has been the leading cause of death among its clients this year until August, saying it had overtaken heart disease and cancer.

The company releases a summary of its insurance claims data each year and used the 2020 claims release to highlight Covid-19’s more recent effect on fatalities. Discovery Life CEO Riaan van Reenen said the “annual claims analysis comes at a time when the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on life insurers is becoming clearer”. Covid-19 has dramatically influenced Discovery Life’s death claims experience, with it now overtaking cancer, heart and artery disease as the primary cause of death among Discovery Life clients. 

Physios’ legal bid to stop medical scheme clawbacks could ruin industry, warns expert

Business Day 27 October 2021 - But the SASP says the law gives too much power to schemes and administrators as they both investigate and adjudicate claims suspected to be fraudulent or erroneous

The SA Society of Physiotherapy’s (SASP’s) bid to scrap provisions in the Medical Schemes Act that enable schemes to recover claims paid in error will have a devastating effect on the industry if it is upheld by the courts, a legal consultant to the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) warned on Wednesday. “Reversal of claims is pretty much the norm and there is nothing sinister about it. It would make the administration of medical schemes extremely difficult and perhaps even unworkable if medical schemes were not able to recover amounts paid in error,” said legal consultant Debbie Pearmain. “IF S59 (3) is done away with, then schemes would have to take longer than 30 days to process claims, because the level of scrutiny would have to be increased dramatically just for ordinary claims,” said Pearmain. SASP has asked the Pretoria high court to declare section 59 (3) of the Act unconstitutional and invalid. 

WHO clears Chinese HPV vaccine in global fight against cervical cancer

Business Day 26 October 2021- Approval means international organisations including the vaccine alliance Gavi and other UN agencies can buy the shot for distribution in emerging markets

The World Health Organisation (WHO) approved a cervical cancer vaccine from China’s Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise Co., broadening access in developing countries to a scarce shot that prevents one of the most common causes of cancer. The inoculation was developed by Wantai’s vaccine subsidiary Xiamen Innovax Biotech and works against the two highest-risk types of human papillomavirus, a sexually-transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. It received a stamp of approval from the WHO, known as a pre-qualification, which is widely recognised by developing nations as proof of a product’s safety and efficacy. 

Rise in human bird flu cases in China

Business Day 26 October 2021 - A jump in the number of people in China infected with bird flu this year is raising concern among experts, who say a previously circulating strain appears to have changed and may be more infectious to people.

China has reported 21 human infections with the H5N6 subtype of avian influenza in 2021 to the World Health Organization (WHO), compared with only five last year, it said. Though the numbers are much lower than the hundreds infected with H7N9 in 2017, the infections are serious, leaving many critically ill, and at least six dead. “The increase in human cases in China this year is of concern. It's a virus that causes high mortality,” said Thijs Kuiken, professor of comparative pathology at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam. 

BioNTech to break ground on Rwandan mRNA vaccine factory in 2022

Business Day 26 October 2021 - BioNTech will initially build a production line with 50-million doses annual capacity, which could be also used for Covid-19 vaccines

BioNTech signed an agreement with the Rwandan government and Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal on Tuesday, on the construction of a first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa starting in mid-2022, to help the continent ease health inequalities compared to other world regions. BioNTech, which developed the western world’s most widely used Covid-19 shots with partner Pfizer, will initially build a production line with 50-million doses annual capacity, which could be also used for Covid-19 vaccines, it said in a statement. 

AU plans to buy 110-million Moderna vaccines

Business Day 26 October 2021 - The AU intends to buy up to 110-million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the US to facilitate the deal, officials said.

The AU’s doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15-million arriving before the end of 2021, 35-million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60-million in the second quarter. “This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately,” AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said. “We urge other vaccine-producing countries to follow the lead of the US and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines.” Masiyiwa said the Moderna purchase represented the first time the 55-member AU had secured vaccines that were not fully produced in Africa. The new shipments of vaccine are well below what Africa needs to vaccinate its 1.3-billion people, who have had far less access to the life-saving vaccines than more prosperous parts of the world. The new shipments of vaccine are well below what Africa needs to vaccinate its 1.3-billion people, who have had far less access to the life-saving vaccines than more prosperous parts of the world.

Competition regulator expects to act soon on high cost of Covid-19 tests

Business Day 25 October 2021 - SA has spent an estimated R9bn on Covid-19 tests since the pandemic began, says Competition Commission chief economist

SA’s competition authority is scrutinising the price of Covid PCR tests, which it says have failed to come down despite falling input costs and the economies of scale enjoyed by the biggest laboratories. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are considered the gold standard for Covid-19 testing and are required for international travel and hospital procedures, posing a burden on travellers, patients and medical schemes alike. "We don’t understand why the price hasn’t come down. Action from our side is likely to be imminent," said the Competition Commission’s chief economist, James Hodge. Laboratories charged R1,000 to R1,500 per test at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but the price fell to R850 after the health sector was granted a block exemption to the Competition Act’s restrictions on collective bargaining in March 2020. 

Pfizer claims Covid-19 vaccine 91% effective in young children

Business Day 25 October 2021 - Pfizer says the Covid-19 shot it developed with BioNTech is 90.7% effective against symptomatic cases in children aged five to 11, according to a briefing document posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) website.

Outside experts on the FDA’s vaccines and related biological products advisory committee will meet next week to evaluate Pfizer and BioNTech’s application for emergency authorisation of their Covid vaccine in young children. If the panel votes to recommend clearance and the FDA agrees, it could pave the way for a Covid vaccine for young children to be available by the beginning of November.