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
Early in South Africa’s fourth COVID-19 wave, dominated by the Omicron variant, concerns were raised on what appeared to be an increase in hospitalisations among children. A few months on, Elri Voigt asks local experts what we have learnt about the Omicron variant in children.
Dr Nicholas Crisp is a deputy director-general in the National Department of Health and the person responsible for coordinating South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Crisp spoke to Chris Bateman about challenges with the rollout and his wife and daughters getting sick with COVID-19.
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.
Jabs from Johnson & Johnson were central to plans to scale up South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. With news that a first consignment of two million doses cannot be used, it is critical that government play open cards with the public about its revised vaccination plans and timelines and what steps it is taking to procure more vaccines faster.
By 13 June official statistics from the Department of Health showed 382 255 people 60 years and older in the Eastern Cape registered for COVID-19 vaccination. So far, 114 661 of them received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Luvuyo Mehlwana visited some rural areas to see how registration and vaccination are going.