Upcoming Webinars!
Subscribe to our newsletter
Weekly News
Home / 
Weekly News

IHRM provides a summary of the healthcare related articles in the press on a weekly basis to help you stay updated. 

26 July 2021

BREAKING NEWS: Aspen to begin dispatching J&J Covid-19 vaccines on Monday

Business Day 26 July 2021 - The pharmaceutical manufacturer will release the first supplies of Johnson & Johnson vaccines made with active ingredients sourced from Europe.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare will on Monday release the first supplies of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines made with active ingredients sourced from Europe, it announced in a brief statement. These doses are vital for the government’s plans to accelerate its inoculation programme, as the J&J vaccine requires only a single shot and can be stored in an ordinary fridge, making it easier to reach specific target groups or people living in rural areas. Without specifying volumes, Aspen said the vaccines would be dispatched from Its Gqeberha-based manufacturing facility and distributed to SA and the AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. Supplies would also be shipped to the EU and other offshore markets. 

Consumers holding on to medical scheme membership despite weak economy

Business Day 26 July 2021 - Growth in medical scheme membership was primarily among individuals seeking cover

SA’s two biggest medical scheme administrators, Discovery Health and Medscheme, have reported growth in membership among their client schemes, despite the downturn in the economy and widespread job losses during the coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve seen an unbelievable growth in Discovery Health Medical Scheme since December,” said Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach. The growth was contrary to expectations, and appeared to be because people were prioritising health cover over other spending, even if they lost their jobs, he said. 

Antiviral pills could be Covid-19 game changer

Business Day 26 July 2021 - In instances where access to vaccines is limited or impossible, drugs can be a manageable alternative

Vaccines have been game changers in the fight against Covid-19, offering effective protection against even highly contagious and pathogenic strains such as the Delta variant. But with many in the world still unvaccinated and cases on the rise — including among the vaccinated — it is becoming clear we will need more than shots to keep the virus at bay. Sam Fazeli, a Bloomberg Opinion contributor who covers the pharmaceutical industry for Bloomberg Intelligence, answers questions on the next big potential breakthrough in Covid-19 treatments: antiviral pills under development by Merck & Co and other drugmakers. Access to safe, effective and scalable oral drugs could help reduce the burden of disease and relieve some of the pressure on health systems as they wait for vaccines. These drugs could also help treat breakthrough infections among the vaccinated. Antivirals also have utility for people whose existing health conditions make vaccination risky, as well as those who do not respond well to vaccines, such as immunocompromised individuals. 

Talks between EU and US over vaccination passes hit a glitch

Business Day 25 July 2021 - Concept has been met with resistance, especially from Republicans

Negotiations between the EU and the US to recognise each other’s vaccination passes are struggling to make headway due to the absence of a federal certification system in America, according to a diplomatic memo seen by Bloomberg. EU ambassadors were told at a meeting on Thursday last week that the European Commission is in an advanced stage of talks with the UK, and in contact with Japan, Australia and Canada. Discussions with Ottawa were described as promising and officials are hoping that the EU’s Covid-19 certificates will be recognised in September when Canada is due to reopen travel to vaccinated non-US travellers, the memo reads. 

Public-private alliance moves to majorly ramp up Covid vaccination

Business Day 23 July 2021 - Health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi says the government is now targeting almost 400,000 daily jabs by late August

SA could soon meet its targets for herd immunity as the government and the private sector ramp up daily vaccinations, outstripping the target set by President Cyril Ramaphosa. On Friday, acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told a media briefing that both the public and private sector healthcare systems aim to dispense almost 400,000 vaccinations daily by late August.  “The number of vaccinated people has just surpassed 6-million and we are currently vaccinating at a rate of more than 250,000 per day. Though yesterday [Thursday] the number of vaccinations dropped, we still believe that we will reach our goal of vaccinating at more than 300,000 people per day in the coming week,” said Kubayi. She said based on complaints the department had received, the booking system had been changed to allow for self-scheduling. “This means that anyone who is registered can choose a vaccination site where he or she wants to be vaccinated,” said Kubayi. 

Gap of eight weeks between two Pfizer jabs has benefits, UK study finds

Business Day 23 July 2021 - But global studies show that both the short and long dosing schedules lead to strong real-world protection against Covid-19

An interval of 8-10 weeks between doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech boosts the effectiveness of the two-shot regimen compared with a shorter interval, a UK study found. “Eight weeks is probably the sweet spot,” in terms of the trade-off between getting as many people fully vaccinated as quickly as possible and allowing the population to produce higher antibody levels, Prof Susanna Dunachie, the study lead from the University of Oxford, said at a briefing Thursday. After inoculating a larger proportion of people than any other major economy, Britain has seen infections soar in recent weeks as the Delta variant spreads. The pickup in cases has led to some debate over whether the government should further shorten the recommended interval between doses, recently lowered from 12 weeks to eight. 

Pfizer vaccine very effective at stopping hospitalisation but less so at infection

Business Day 23 July 2021 - However, an Israeli report notes that the data could be skewed due to different ways of testing vaccinated vs unvaccinated groups of people

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine provided a strong shield against hospitalisation and more severe disease in cases caused by the contagious Delta variant in Israel in recent weeks, even though it was just 39% effective in preventing infections, according to the country’s health ministry.

The vaccine, developed with BioNTech, provided 88% protection against hospitalisation and 91.4% against severe illness for an unspecified number of people studied between June 20 and July 17, according to a report Thursday from the health ministry. The report said that the data could be skewed because of different ways of testing vaccinated groups of people versus those who had not been inoculated. These results contrast with an earlier study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offer 88% protection against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant, compared to 94% against the Alpha variant that was first discovered in Britain. Public Health England also previously found that the Pfizer and BioNTech shot was 96% effective against hospitalisation. 

Covid-19 drives excess natural deaths to more than 200,000

Business Day 22 July 2021 – The latest figures, provided by the Medical Research Council, shows that three quarters of those deaths were among the elderly

More than three quarters of the 203,000 excess deaths from natural causes that have occurred in SA in the past 15 months were among people aged 60 or above, highlighting the devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic has exacted among SA’s elderly, according to the latest weekly report from the Medical Research Council (MRC). The MRC said the figures might be an undercount, as it was not clear at this stage whether the violence and looting that gripped KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng last week had delayed the registration of deaths, which are recorded by the home affairs department. The tally of excess natural deaths for people aged 60 and older between May 2020 and July 17 2021 came to nearly 156,000, representing 77% of the total. 

China rejects WHO call for Wuhan lab probe to determine origins of Covid-19

Business Day 22 July 2021 - China pushed back against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call for another investigation into the coronavirus’s origins that includes examining whether it leaked from a lab, saying there is no evidence for the theory and it defies common sense.

The pathogen most likely arose in an animal, which transmitted it to humans via an intermediate host, a group of top Chinese science officials insisted at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday. They praised an earlier WHO report that pointed primarily to animals and called for a worldwide search for the genesis of the outbreak, while saying that the lab leak hypothesis was “extremely impossible”. The Wuhan laboratory at the centre of the controversy “never had the virus”, said Liang Wannian, an epidemiologist who headed the team of Chinese experts working with the WHO. “There’s no need for us to put more resources into a lab leak probe.” 

Vaccination rate lags among non-medical scheme members

Business Day 21 July 2021 - A total 17.8% of the medical scheme market covered, compared with 6% of the uninsured market

A higher proportion of medical scheme members have received a Covid-19 vaccine shot compared with non-medical scheme members under the government’s immunisation drive, raising fairness concerns, a senior health official told parliament on Wednesday evening. By Tuesday evening, 4.7-million people had received at least one shot. A total 1.6-million recipients were medical scheme members, representing 17.8% of the 8.99-million medical scheme market, while 3.1-million were non-medical scheme members, representing 6% of the 50-million uninsured market, said the department’s deputy director-general for National Health Insurance, Nicholas Crisp. He conceded the government’s strategy of prioritising sectors such as health-care workers and teachers, most of whom are public servants who belong to medical schemes, has tipped the scales towards the insured market, but said the location of private sector vaccination sites have also played a role. 

Pfizer deal to make jabs in SA ‘a stepping stone to bigger thing

Business Day 21 July 2021 - Biovac becomes the first company in Africa to manufacture mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in a deal Ramaphosa says will contribute to the continent’s health security

State-backed vaccine distributor Biovac Institute has reached an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to help manufacture 100-million doses of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine a year for African countries. It will be the first company in Africa to be involved in the production of an mRNA-based vaccine and joins a global network of more than 20 contractors involved in production of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot. 

Study supporting Ivermectin for COVID withdrawn over ethical concerns

Medical Brief 21 July 2021 - The efficacy of Ivermectin, the drug being unofficially promoted worldwide for treating COVID-19, is again under challenge after a much cited study suggesting the treatment is effective against the virus was withdrawn over “ethical concerns”, writes MedicalBrief.

Meanwhile, also in MedicalBrief this week, the medical risk insurer Medical Protection has warned that any medical practitioner who prescribes Ivermectin “takes on a considerable legal liability … unless the letter of the law has been followed”, while a University of KwaZulu-Natal medical scientist writes that Ivermectin has become a “battle of ideologies on safety and efficacy [that] pits a group of doctors who deal with dying patients every day against bureaucrat academic clinicians”. 

Inquest spotlights HPCSA and SANC foot dragging over Life Esidimeni

Medical Brief 21 July 2021 - The Life Esidimeni inquest that will decide if anybody can be held criminally responsible for the deaths of 144 mental health patients while in the care of ill-equipped NGOs has started in the Pretoria High Court

After five years of failing to take disciplinary steps against health care professionals found by the Moseneke Inquiry to be responsible, it will ratchet the pressure on the Health Professions Council of SA. and the SA Nursing Council to finally act. Similarly, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was probing 45 criminal cases related to the tragedy. It committed to complete this by August 2018 but failed to do so. SANC this week told City Press that steps had still not been taken against Dr Makgabo Manamela.