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The University of the Western Cape (UWC) and IOL teamed up to bring you #VaxxFacts – everything you wanted to know about the COVID-19 vaccine but were too scared to ask.

There has been a fair amount of pressure exerted from both sides of the vaccine debate. The editorial series delivered the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine from every possible angle with the help of UWC’s leading minds. Most imprtantly, the series was positioned to give you the science necessary to make an informed decision about the vaccine.

Get your #VaxxFacts below:

What is in COVID-19 vaccines?

Misinformation about what is contained in COVID-19 vaccines is probably one of the key contributing factors to vaccine hesitancy. According to Dr Manoj Bagwandeen, director of UWC’s Campus Health and Wellness Centre, the technology to formulate the vaccine has been around for the past decade or so. This, coupled with an international collaboration to share information, allowed the vaccine to be formulated fairly quickly. The vaccines have undergone extensive trials and tests before being released.
Read Dr Manoj Bagwandeen and Prof Megan Shaw's insights HERE...

Who cannot get the vaccine?

One of the most controversial and polarising issues in this day and age of social media and online heckling has to be the divide between those looking to get vaccinated and those who are anti-vaccine. While countless people would like to get vaccinated, there are those who, due to medical conditions, cannot get their jab. 

The Janssen® (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine (single shot) and the Comirnaty® (Pfizer) vaccine (two shots) are available in South Africa.

According to the Western Cape Department of Health: “ All COVID vaccines contain instructions for the spike protein on the coronavirus. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine contains an adenovirus which has been modified so that it cannot cause disease or multiply in humans. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine contains a messenger RNA (mRNA) fragment. The vaccines naturally disintegrate within days after they have instructed your immune system to respond to the spike protein on the coronavirus.” 
UWC's Dr Amminah Martin and Prof Burtram Fielding reveal all HERE...

Can companies force South Africans to vaccinate?

While the South African government tries to convince citizens to inoculate themselves against the COVID-19 virus, companies like Discovery have gone one step further by requiring all employees, except those with valid reasons, to be vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

Dr Yvette Basson, a senior lecturer in the Law Faculty with a research focus on labour law, social security, and persons with disabilities, says that there is “difference between making vaccinations compulsory for employees to remain employed and for citizens to use business services.”
Read more about Dr Yvette Basson's assessment of legalities around 'forced' vaccination HERE...

No COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths reported in South Africa

Reports of people dying from the COVID-19 vaccine is often cited as a reason for vaccine hesitancy in South Africa.

A recent study by the Human Sciences Research Council and the University of Johannesburg found that 25% of people are concerned about its side effects.
Reports of 29 deaths being linked to the COVID-19 vaccine has done little to challenge these perceptions.

However, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) - which is mandated to oversee the safety of all medicines registered in the country - has confirmed, based on reports from an interdisciplinary team of medical experts, that these deaths were not linked to the vaccine.
Read the full article HERE...

What you need to know about the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has dismissed claims that people are dying after being vaccinated. SAHPRA said none of the over seven million people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine in the country, have died from receiving it.

Since May, fewer than a hundred cases of adverse reactions have been reported to SAHPRA. While people had died after receiving a dose of the vaccine, they had not died from the vaccine itself. Investigations into COVID-19 deaths revealed that people died either because they had contracted the virus before vaccination, or contracted it soon after being vaccinated.
Read Professor Burtram Fielding's insight HERE...

The efficacy of vaccinations on new COVID-19 variants

A new COVID-19 variant has reared its head. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) C.1.2 was detected in May, and it has several mutations.

The only thing that has been proven conclusively is that new variants spread more easily, but there is no conclusive evidence that they are becoming deadlier. By mutating, viruses want to get a competitive advantage to infect as many people as possible without killing the host.
Read Professor Burtram Fielding's full comment HERE...

COVID-19 vaccines produce T-cell immunity that lasts and works against virus variants

Over the past year or so, ordinary people have learnt a lot about viruses, vaccines and the immune system. We have all had to digest a lot of complex specialist knowledge about how safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are.

But one important – and positive – aspect of the vaccines hasn’t been well communicated. The statistics about COVID-19 vaccine efficacy have only focused on one aspect of immunity: antibodies. But there’s another aspect too: T-cells, a key part of our immune systems. And the good news is that the current vaccines stimulate your T-cells to fight against both the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its emerging variants in the long term.
Read Dewald Schoeman and Prof. Burtram Fielding's insight HERE...

Ivermectin – it's all in the details

Without reducing it to “just a horse dewormer”, one should start with what ivermectin is.

Developed during the 1970s as a partnership between the Kitasato Institute in Japan and American multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug. `

Thanks to its effectiveness against a broad spectrum of internal and external parasites, which, in turn, improved animal health and boosted productivity, ivermectin quickly became a popular drug in the veterinary field.
Read why ivermectin's founders are partnering in vaccine, rather than ivermectin, rollout HERE...

Become more client-centred to curb vaccination hesitancy

What does the unvaccinated group look like? Among the unvaccinated group, you have those with a very strong belief against vaccines. Then there are the ‘wait-and-see’ groups - those who need more evidence. There are also people who are not vaccinated because the cost of standing in a 30-minute vaccine queue is simply too high. The reality for many in South Africa is no-work-no-pay, and that is why we are concerned about the unvaccinated in our economically vulnerable populations. 

From a policy perspective, it is easier to target the latter two groups where vaccine hesitancy is linked to a ‘wait-and-see’ strategy or high cost barriers. For these groups, the accessibility of vaccines must be improved. The process can be made a lot quicker and easier. In this way, the cost - be it monetary or mental - of accessing vaccines is lowered and it could encourage earlier action. 
To read more about Dr Carmen Christian's economic insight into vaccination, click HERE...


UWC partners with WHO on a new genomic surveillance centre to monitor disease outbreaks beyond COVID-19 in Africa

The World Health Organization Africa, together with South African National Bioinformatics Institute (SANBI), University of the Western Cape (UWC), is launching a new Regional Centre of Excellence for Genomic Surveillance and Bioinformatics (RCEGSB) in Cape Town.

The announcement of this new centre, which will help scale-up sequencing and bioinformatics on the continent for COVID-19 and other diseases, comes as scientists confirm that samples of a new C.1.2 coronavirus strain has been detected in our nine provinces.
Read the full artricle HERE...

Vaccinated children protect the whole family

“In several other countries, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for the use in children aged 12 years and up,” said Prof Megan Shaw, who is also a parent. “I know that there are clinical trials being run for younger children, and when those data become available, it should pave the way for vaccinating all age groups.”

Although the number of deaths in children is not as high as the older age groups, Prof Shaw believes that getting children vaccinated is just as important and that no child should die of a vaccine-preventable disease.
Read Prof Megan Shaw's argument for child vaccination HERE...

UWC's CHS and the Western Cape Department of Health Takes Vaccination to the People

Responding to the need to take vaccination services to those who are still undecided about being vaccinated, the UWC Community Health Sciences Faculty in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health’s (WCDoH) Northern and Tygerberg substructure, will be involved in two COVID-19 vaccination outreaches in the month of September, one in Bellville and the other in Fisantekraal, located 10km from Durbanville.
Read more about this vaccination outreach drive HERE...

Herd immunity extremely unlikely, but virus can be managed

COVID-19 is here to stay, and thus the focus must shift from the elimination to the management of the disease.

This is the view of Professor Burtram Fielding, virologist and UWC’s Director of Research and Development, on the topic of herd immunity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) herd immunity, also known as population immunity, is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.
For more on Prof Burtram Fielding's herd immunity view, click HERE...