LATEST NEWS

OUTPUT OF VACCINES TO BE RAMPED UP

14 Jun 2021

Pres Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the C-19 immunisation drive will be ramped up to try to make up for 2-m doses of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shots that can’t be used due to contamination. According to the President Aspen Pharmacare will start manufacturing another batch and they should be able to gear up their manufacturing capacity.

This follows US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision to order J&J to discard 60-m doses due to contamination.

SA ordered 31-m doses of J&J vaccines in the expectation that they would be supplied through Aspen, reported Fin24 (14 Jun 2021). It requires only a single shot and are easier to store than the Pfizer/BioNTech two-shot vaccine, which is now being provided.

“But the net effect is that the vaccine rollout under way for all citizens aged 60 years and older cannot be accelerated, said Nicholas Crisp, who is overseeing the programme at the Department of Health. For now it means we will remain at the current level of 80 000-90 000 vaccines a day.”


PROVINCIAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS IN DIRE STRAITS

14 Jun 2021

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told Parliament that the Gauteng health department has racked up more than R12-bn in irregular expenses during the past five years. (News24 13 June 2021). Irregular expenditure at all nine provincial health departments has skyrocketed over this period.

North West health department’s irregular expenditure bill for the past five years tops R4.7-bn and the Free-State reported of R1.6-bn in irregular expenditure.


‘ZOOMED TO DEATH’

14 Jun 2021

According to research by Momentum Corporate 9% of all of Momentum Corporate’s disability claims on average were related to mental health issues. The insurer expects a spike in the near future, due to Covid-19.

Psychiatric conditions seem to affect younger members of the working population, particularly the millennials who make up more than half of the workforce now.

Life coach Dr Alex Granger said the extraordinary circumstances brought by Covid-19 shifted everyone to the adapt or die mode, reported News24. Companies pushed harder to reach targets, employees worked more to prove their worth, but everyone has stayed in this mode longer than they should. He said companies are riding the wave of what he calls “crisis excellence”

Meanwhile, Momentum Corporate has introduced “meeting free zones” where the company does not schedule any meetings on Wednesday afternoons and allowing the “rewire” approaches to leadership, employee culture and employee benefits.


HALFJAAR ‘SAMA’S WARNINGS ON NHI BILL MET WITH HOSTILITY’

10 Jun 2021

Several members of the Portfolio Committee on Health responded negatively to the SA Medical Association’s (SAMA) presentation, on the NHI Bill.
Although SAMA supported Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in principle and the coverage of the whole population for “a well-developed healthcare benefit, which was not based on the ability to pay for care”, it could not support the NHI Bill in its entirety, reported MedicalBrief (9June 2021).

“There is a deeply-rooted lack of confidence among our members in the capacity of government structures to provide financial support structures for quality service,” said SAMA's Dr Angela Coetzee.

SAMA also criticised the Bill for lacking essential detail and warned about the “uncertainty and anxiety” it was causing in the medical profession.


BIOGEN SHARE PRICE SOARS AS US ACCEPTS DRUG FOR ALZHEIMER’S

09 Jun 2021

Biogen’s share price leapt after its controversial Alzheimer’s disease therapy was approved by US regulators, a landmark decision that stands to dramatically change treatment for the debilitating brain condition, reported Bloomberg News (9 June 2021)

The stock gained as much as 64% shortly after the news of the clearance. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted the antibody therapy accelerated approval.

The approval is the first clearance of an Alzheimer’s therapy by the FDA since 2003, and one of the agency’s most consequential decisions in years.


WORLD BANK REJECTS IP WAIVER AS WTO TALKS RESUME

09 Jun 2021

Reuters reported on June 9, that the World Bank has announced that it does not support waiving intellectual property (IP) rights for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) out of concern that it would hamper innovation in the pharmaceuticals sector.

Major vaccine makers and the pharmaceutical industries have opposed the waiver from the WTO’s agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (Trips), arguing that it would stifle innovation and do little to effectively increase vaccine supplies constrained by trade barriers, shortages of components and a lack of manufacturing capabilities.


HEALTH MINISTER ZWELI MKHIZE ON ‘SPECIAL LEAVE’

09 Jun 2021

The ANC’s top leaders convinced Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to step aside temporarily pending an investigation into a communications contract handed to associates of his, arguing that this is necessary to defend the credibility of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s reform agenda, reported BusinessDay (9 June 2021).

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing a R150-m contract awarded to Digital Vibes, a recently obscure outfit headed by his former personal assistant and former secretary.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has been appointed as acting Health Minister.

“It is understood that Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma - who are both medical doctors and previously held the post - were deliberately overlooked because Mkhize’s possible exit will signal an opportunity for Ramaphosa to reshuffle his entire cabinet and introduce new blood.”

Shortly before he was placed on special leave Mkhize urged the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to resolve their problems for the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccination rollout to continue.
Meanwhile the European Medicines Agency and SAHPRA are waiting on the FDA findings regarding contamination issues at the US-based J&J contractor Emergent BioSolutions.


ZWELI MKHIZE TO GIVE FULL ACCOUNT OF R150M TENDER AS PRESSURE BUILDS

08 Jun 2021

Officials remain tight-lipped ahead of ANC Integrity Committee Hearing - Reported Businessday (7 June 2021)

"As pressure mounts on Zweli Mkhize over a R150-M communications tender awarded to an obscure company run by his associates, those close to the embattled Health Minister remained tight-lipped on Monday amid growing speculation about his future. "
"Mkhize is due to give a full account within the next few days after the scandal came closer to him personally with that the company, Digital Vibes, had bought a luxury car for his son."


COVID-19: THE BIG WAVE IS COMING

09 Jun 2020

“It is only a matter of time before the rest of South Africa reaches the surge in COVID-19 coronavirus cases currently being experienced in the Western Cape, experts warn,” reported City Press (7 June 2020).

Epidemiologists and experts in infectious diseases and vaccinology agree that a change in social behaviour was the only way to halt the increasing speed at which the virus was spreading.

According to the latest figures released by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, the cumulative number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 is 43 434, with more than 850 000 tests having been conducted to date. The number of recoveries remains a bastion of hope as the country a recorded 23 088 recoveries – translating to a rate of 53.2%.