South African bioinformatics expert Professor Tulio de Oliveira was recently honoured with Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people award. Biénne Huisman sat down with him to talk about his part in the discovery of new COVID-19 variants, his chats with the President, and the treasure trove of scientific research excellence in Africa.
According to new estimates from the World Health Organization around 61 000 people died of TB in South Africa in 2020, an increase of around 5% over 2019. That works out to over 1 100 TB deaths in the country every week. We urgently need a transparent TB recovery plan and we need both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Joe Phaahla to invest real political capital in the implementation of the plan, the authors argue.
Last night President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Dr Zweli Mkhize had resigned as South Africa’s Minister of Health after eight weeks on special leave. Although Mkhize will primarily be remembered for the Digital Vibes scandal that caused his downfall, a lot more happened over the last two years. Spotlight editor Marcus Low asks what we can learn from Mkhize’s time as health minister and tries to make sense of some of the contradictions.
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.
While the Digital Vibes scandal has no doubt presented President Cyril Ramaphosa with a massive headache, it has also presented him with an opportunity. In appointing a new Minister of Health, he can set South Africa’s COVID-19 response on a sounder footing. We should soon know whether this is an opportunity he is ready to take, writes Spotlight editor Marcus Low.
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.
25 heads of state, including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, have called for the creation of an international pandemic treaty to strengthen global capacity to predict and respond to pandemic threats. But what should we make of this development, given that existing treaties have often been ignored during the COVID-19 crisis and recent efforts toward a research and development treaty for health products have floundered, asks Catherine Tomlinson.
Six years after the South African Human Rights Commission held hearings into access to emergency medical services in the Eastern Cape little has changed for the people of Xhora Mouth, writes Phumzile Msaro.
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.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called the COVID-19 pandemic the gravest crisis in the country’s democratic history. Now, with the Western Cape and Gauteng making up nearly 64 percent of the country’s total confirmed infections, Kathryn Cleary asked departments of health in both provinces how prepared they are for the coming peak.