SARS Cov-2 Pandemic in South Africa and the Astra Zeneca Vaccine Fiasco
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, 15 Feb 2021
Antonio C.S. Rosa, Editor
TRANSCEND Media Service
13 Feb 2021
Dear Prof. Rosa,
The Sad Odyssey of South Africa Continues for the Rainbow Nation
Please allow me to wish you a stress-free and Happy Chinese New Year. We pray that the “Year of the Ox”[i] will herald the beginning of a much more pleasant year than the commencement of the Gregorian New Year of 2021 and indeed the start of the new decade. Hopefully, the deaths from the SARS Cov-2 pandemic will diminish by the Grace of the Lord, as the realm of science has not been able to assist humanity in its quest for a victory against this invisible bioterrorist, by means of the fast-tracked vaccine development initiated by the former President Donald J. Trump, of the United States of America, in his famous “Operation Warp Speed”[ii]. In fact, the pandemic has reached the scale of a super pandemic and the SARS Cov-2 original virus has spawned numerous progenies, in the form of highly virulent mutations, with deadly effects[iii] on humanoids.
South Africa has a total, registered population of over, 59 million[iv] people of diverse ethnicities, cultures, phenotypes, ranging from morbidly obese to malnourished, emaciated individuals, cultures, religions, races, educational and social backgrounds, all living in relative harmony and social cohesion with equality for all, free from racial discrimination since freedom achieved by the Great Madiba, the first democratically elected former, late President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela[v], and who with his cohort of freedom fighters, many of them who were brutally murdered, even fed to crocodiles[vi], as members of the present ruling party, the African National Congress, founded on 08th January 1912[vii].
In recent post-apartheid era, two different categories of South Africans have emerged. Firstly, these are the super empowered, hyper-rich class and secondly, the hyper-impoverished, mass of humanity, most of whom are living below the poverty line and who are still disempowered, suffering from all the effects of the entire spectrum of poverty. The dire status of this group is further complicated by the endemic scourges of HIV AIDS compounded by tuberculosis in various forms. Typically, we have two nations in one. “The Haves” and “The Have Nots”. The Have Nots are in the majority and are suffering from ravages of lack of basic service delivery such as fresh water and sanitation, were children often fall into “pit toilets[viii]” and die while playing under major national highways, where sand banks collapse[ix] and demise, due to lack of play facilities for children, compounded by the lack of timeous arrival of rescue personnel, on the scene. Furthermore, while there is religious and social cohesion, the spectre of xenophobia[x] raises its horrendous head with destruction of foreign owned businesses leading to murders of the foreigners themselves, regularly. Another major problem is the ongoing corruption which is now being exposed by The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, also known as the Zondo Commission of Inquiry or Zondo Commission[xi].
This is a public inquiry launched by the government of former State President Jacob Zuma[xii], in January 2018, to “investigate allegations of state capture, corruption, fraud and other alleged misdeeds in the public sector including organs of state in South Africa. This inquiry was continued by the righteous and transparent President Cyril Ramaphosa since his appointment[xiii]. Therefore, against a background of abject poverty, unemployment, high scale corruption running into billions, the sad tale of South Africa is further compounded by the SARS Cov-2 pandemic and the emergence of the new Covid variant from the Province of Eastern Cape[xiv], which is further economically constrained by the various lockdowns and collapse of international tourism due to the pandemic[xv].
Against such a backdrop, the pandemic arrives with the first lockdown on March 27th, 2020[xvi], with devastating outcomes in terms of morbidity, mortality and significant economic ruin for the small and medium businesses enterprises, informal workers, as well as industries especially the tourism sector, resulting in massive unemployment. This was accompanied by a proportionate rise in crime and domestic violence. A positive outcome was when the alcohol ban was imposed, the statistics for road traffic accidents decreased and hospital beds were made available for SARS Cov-2 patients[xvii]. However, the alcohol ban resulted in a thriving black-market industry flourishing in the country with even participation of some law enforcement officers[xviii], with entrepreneurial skills to capitalise on the situation.
Currently, the statistics for South Africa, according to John Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Centre[xix] as on Saturday, 13th February 2021 at 1124 hours are: Total cases in South Africa, 1,487,681, Total number of South African deaths:47.670, Total number of Global cases 108,234,423, Total number of Global deaths: 2,384,113. The arsenal of medication used against the SARS Cov-2 virus pandemic increases daily and “The Haves” who are receiving the best of treatments are still dying, while “The Have Nots” are simply demising, often from the lack of access to proper medical care. In rural areas, the ill disposed are often using Traditional Healers[xx] and their treatment regimes, to good effect, as mainstream medical care is not available.
Other problems are the non-approval of certain medication such as Ivermectin[xxi] which is approved in some first world countries but not in South Africa. The law enforcement officer from various departments are raiding pharmacies and private hospital for using the unregistered medication in the desperate fight against SARS Cov-2 while Drug Lords[xxii] are reportedly afforded protection by some law enforcement officers who are involved in rampant corruption. This is also reported to be prevalent in some government circles.
The South African ban on Ivermectin was aided by local experts insisting that clinical trials be conducted before the drug can be authorised for general use in Covid patients, in South Africa. It is to be remembered that if Dr. Edward Anthony Jenner[xxiii], who is widely regarded as the “Father of Immunology” waited for clinical trial outcomes in 1768, before he inoculated his gardener’s son, Master James Phipps, a boy of 8 years of age, the populations of United Kingdom and major cities of Europe would have been decimated.
Therefore, there was great anticipation and media hype in the vaccines which became available globally, late in 2020. Like the rest of the world, South Africa was in the queue to place an order and purchase the vaccine. In South Africa, The State President Mr Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation of the arrival of the vaccine amid fanfare and great media event, the authorities went to receive the Emirates Cargo[xxiv] plane landing at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and take personal delivery of the vaccines directly from the tarmac, under security cover. These were subject to quality control tests and were planned to be released thereafter. Most regrettably, after a few days of receipt of these one million doses of vaccines, three impediments subsequently emerged with reference to these Astra Zeneca Vaccines [xxv]which did not need stringent maintenance of the cold chain, relevant, especially in the context of rural South Africa and therefore considered suitable for use in third world countries.
- The vaccine trials did not include participants over 64 years of age.[xxvi]
The vaccine received, by South Africa were only 10% effective in some studies, against the new South African, mutant strain.
- More importantly, the batch dispatched from India, was short dated, with an expiry at the end of April 2021.[xxvii]
In view of this great embarrassment to the South African National Government, the vaccine rolls out was immediately suspended and surprisingly, Ivermectin was expediently released by The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) [xxviii] authorizing Ivermectin for emergency, compassionate use. There were numerous appeals to the Honourable Minister of Health in South Africa, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to allow general use of Ivermectin from General Practitioners, such as Dr Naseeba Kathrada’[xxix] and including the author. The national experts are now revising their strategy for, vaccination and in the meantime the death rate is increasing exponentially, with senior and highly experience medical colleagues dying from SARS Cov-2 infections.
Once again, the vaccine fiasco highlights and repeats the great governmental embarrassment in the State Capture[xxx] corruption scandal generated by The Guptas and presently the batch of vaccines received from the Serum Institute of India has caused further national loss of face and globally unease of the government. The wider impact of the vaccine fiasco has also impacted on the acceptability of the vaccine by not only the people of South Africa and amongst the “Vaccine Protagonists” but the sequence of events surrounding the vaccine has also undermined public confidence in the vaccine by the global communities. This lack of confidence is also added to by the reports of adverse effects and inordinate numbers of deaths in many populations as well as side effects in children, in particular.
The basic option which are presently available for the containment of the pandemic remains largely unchanged in the immediate future and the advocated measures must be fully complied with, while the new anti-arthritis drugs[xxxi] which has tremendous potential remains promising under the circumstances.
In concluding, it can be realised that the sad odyssey of Africa continues from the time of colonisation, regional, tribal chiefs complicit in support of slavery of his own subjects for material gain, four of five decades of uninterrupted, ruling dictators, monarchies, forced migration, xenophobia, human trafficking, drug lords under protection of law enforcement, genocides, femicides, ritualistic murders of albinos, rampant corruption, involving billions, stealing and grafting of tenders for personal protective equipment, vitally needed for frontline workers, without any compassion, anti-unbuntu[xxxii] ethos, HIV / Aids- TB epidemics, pandemics and now being literally short-changed in the purchase of one million doses of vaccines, with scarce public funds, which could have been utilised for more worthy causes.
The expedient purchase, the call for clinical trials and the associated recruitment of participants, mainly from disadvantaged communities, who are enticed by financial gain to agree to the traditional informed consent,[xxxiii] as an ethical prerequisite, for participation in clinical trials. These measures of conducting controlled clinical trials, while scientifically sound, raise the question of ethics, perverse incentives and possible vested or conflict of interests in the scientific community, These aspects need to be carefully reviewed by multinational, “Big Pharma, especially in the third world countries, where illiteracy even in ethnic languages prevails.
The good old adage is still apt “nothing good comes out of Africa”[xxxiv] except humans and humanity.
Kind regards and respectfully yours in friendship,
Prof. Hoosen Vawda, BSc, MBChB (Natal), ATLS, ACLS (NZ), PhD (Wits):
-Community Health and Indigent Programme Services–Social Outreach, Medical Programme (Not for Profit Organisation)
-Lifestyle Change Management – PR: 1501305, MP: 0193801
Tags: Africa, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Letter to the Editor, South Africa, Vaccines
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Feb 2021.
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