Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, have been hailed for their manufacturing advantages over conventional vaccines – so much so that African leaders such as President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for mRNA production capacity to be developed in Africa. Catherine Tomlinson examines why mRNA vaccines are easier to make than some other types of vaccines and asks what it will take to build such production capacity.
When South Africa’s rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine was put on hold in early February, a scramble ensued to ensure healthcare workers could be protected. Chris Bateman spoke to Professor Glenda Gray about the behind-the-scenes negotiations that helped secure 500 000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – almost all of which have now been used in the Sisonke study.
Starting now, hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines will be arriving in South Africa weekly. Rather than spending energy and resources policing who gets them, we should be focusing on getting the vaccines as fast as possible into willing arms. Don’t try to micro-manage the rollout, writes Nathan Geffen and Marcus Low.
With phase two of the country’s vaccination rollout set to start on Monday, 17 May, provinces are gearing up for the largest adult vaccination push the country has ever seen. Elri Voigt provides an update on preparations for the next phase in the nine provinces and progress made in vaccinating healthcare workers through the Sisonke implementation study.
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.
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.
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.
In late January, Dr Anban Pillay, Deputy Director-General in South Africa’s National Department of Health, revealed that South Africa would pay more than double the price paid by the European Union (EU) for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. This set off a flurry of questions on how vaccine prices are set and why, in many cases, the prices themselves are not known to the public. Catherine Tomlinson takes a closer look at the issues involved.