During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many committees and organisations were working around the clock to prepare the country for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Professor Hannelie Meyer, a pharmacist-turned-academic and later vaccine advocate, served on several of these committees. Elri Voigt spoke to Meyer about the pandemic, the mottos that guide her, and being an unapologetic workaholic.
An HIV prevention injection approved in South Africa, several promising developments on the tuberculosis front, the National Health Insurance Bill grinding its way through Parliament, no end in sight to healthcare worker shortages, another dire year for health in Gauteng – Spotlight wraps up 2022 in under 1 000 words.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has often made the headlines in recent years – be it in relation to COVID-19 vaccines, access to ivermectin, the approval of an HIV prevention injection, or most recently the clearing of inherited backlogs. Catherine Tomlinson assesses the state of South Africa’s medicines regulator as 2022 draws to a close.
HIV prevention pills are becoming more widely available in South Africa and the country is set to soon start piloting the use of an HIV prevention injection. But merely having these tools available in clinics and other places does not mean people will use them. Thabo Molelekwa asked several experts what behaviour change communications should look like in this new era of HIV prevention.
When Professor Petro Terblanche joined biotechnology start-up Afrigen three years ago, she had no idea that the team she was heading up would create the continent’s first mRNA vaccine. But that wasn’t the first time Terblanche had been at the forefront of cutting-edge scientific work. Aisha Abdool Karim spoke to her as part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series.
In January, Cape Town-based biotechnology company Afrigen Biologics announced that it has successfully produced a lab-scale batch of a mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 that is similar to that made by pharmaceutical company Moderna. Catherine Tomlinson takes an in-depth look at how Afrigen managed to reach this point and what further challenges have to be overcome before mRNA vaccines can be produced at scale in South Africa
Pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer recently announced early results from clinical trials showing that two new antiviral medicines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisation. The Medicines Patent Pool then announced licensing deals with both companies that will allow for generic versions of the two drugs to be produced. Catherine Tomlinson unpacks the licenses and asks whether generic versions of these pills might now be made in Africa.
As the country is still calculating the tally of the vaccine stock and medicines stolen in last week’s unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, there is still a lot of uncertainty about plans to restore medicine security.
The new and more contagious Delta variant has now surpassed the Beta variant to become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in South Africa. Laura Lopez Gonzalez pulled together answers to eight common questions asked about this new variant.
The two vaccines used in South Africa’s vaccination programme, those from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech, have both been shown to be highly effective against COVID-19, particularly in preventing hospitalisation and death. But protection may wane over time and new variants may or may not render these vaccines less effective. Adele Baleta unpacks what we do and do not know about the potential need for booster shots and surveys some of the studies that will help fill the gaps.
On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will host the first World Health Organization-backed COVID-19 mRNA vaccine Technology Transfer Hub – an initiative designed to get the production of mRNA vaccines off the ground in Africa. Parties involved in the hub expect to hear as early as next week whether pharmaceutical companies with mRNA COVID-vaccines for COVID-19 on the market – Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech – will share their know-how with the hub. Chris Bateman reports for Spotlight.