On 17 May South Africa’s mass COVID-19 vaccination programme is expected to finally kick off. This will start a long race against the clock in which every day and every vaccination matters. We should aim to administer at least 250 000 vaccine doses a day, writes Spotlight editor Marcus Low.
Developing COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year came from repurposing multiple, decade-old vaccine research platforms, but too many lives were lost, and a new goal of developing vaccines in 100 days is needed to counter the next global pathogen, experts say.
Strict monitoring and surveillance systems for the safety of all vaccines, including those for COVID-19, are in place during vaccine trials as well as once vaccines are rolled out more widely. Adele Baleta takes a look at how vaccine-related adverse events are monitored in South Africa.
Within the next month or so we will be switching gears from the comparatively small-scale trial run of Sisonke to a full-on mass vaccination programme. As with the onset of a new wave of infections, this presents a dramatic shift in the pandemic and our response to it – although in this case, the shift is finally a good thing, writes Spotlight editor Marcus Low.
Spotlight first interviewed physician and infectious diseases specialist Dr Arifa Parker in May last year as South Africa’s first wave of COVID-19 was building up. Eleven very difficult months later, Bienne Huisman checks in with Parker to hear how things are going on the frontlines at Tygerberg Hospital.
Biopharmaceuticals are therapeutic drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics in which the active ingredient is produced in a living substance such as eggs or tobacco plants. The living substance acts as a ‘miniature factory’ in which the active ingredient is grown and replicated. Catherine Tomlinson takes a deep dive into the fascinating research and other initiatives in South Africa aimed at spurring local production of these products – and asks why a Cape Town-based company opted to set up a manufacturing plant in Mauritius rather than at home.
South Africa is likely headed for a third wave of COVID-19 infections, experts warn. With no windfall of vaccines in sight, many people at high risk of COVID-19 will remain unvaccinated. Now some doctors and medical ethicists are asking: Is a safe vaccine that could possibly protect them better than nothing?
The World Trade Organization TRIPS council is expected to vote on South Africa and India’s proposed patent waiver on 10 or 11 March which could, if granted, help countries to scale up production of COVID-19 vaccines. But, while the waiver is important, argues Julia Chaskalson, it is also urgent that South Africa should amend its outdated domestic patent laws.
Some foreign nationals in South Africa, their community leaders, human rights lawyers and activists are concerned that their health needs are falling through the cracks. This was compounded during lockdown with some foreign nationals claiming they were refused healthcare and others now concerned they will be excluded from the vaccine rollout. Luvuyo Mehlwana reports.
On 17 February Sr Milanie Bennett administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to President Cyril Ramaphosa. Bienne Huisman tracked her down to learn more about her long journey to this historical moment.