Government can avoid the overwhelming of health services and minimise death in an anticipated fourth COVID-19 wave in November/December by getting 90% of people in South Africa over 35 years old vaccinated before then. Life could then return to normal by Christmas, even with ongoing SARS-CoV-2 circulation, contends vaccinologist Professor Shabir Madhi.
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.
An experimental COVID-19 vaccine currently in Phase I trials being run by the University of Cape Town has a unique design that might allow it to offer better protection against current and future variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Elri Voigt provides an update on the trial and unpacks the science behind this vaccine candidate.