The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) board chairperson, Professor Helen Reese, on Thursday presented to the Portfolio Committee on Health on the new Covid-19 variant.
Reese said Saphra was closely monitoring the behaviour of new variants – specifically the new C.1.2 mutation – against the vaccines currently being rolled out.
C.1.2 and vaccine efficacy
New variants monitored
Reese explained the Sahpra research team will be testing the vaccines currently in circulation against the new variant “to make sure that vaccines we are rolling out remain effective.”.
“We are looking at the effectiveness of vaccines once we roll them out. […] We look at how they are responding to new variants but we also look at breakthrough infections”.
She said research is showing the variant is not behaving in the same way as the highly transmissible Delta variant which drove South Africa’s third wave of infection. Reese warned it could change.
C.1.2 variant behaves differntly
While the C.1.2 variant has been detected in eight of SA’s nine provinces, it’s also been detected in eight other countries around the world.
“It’s widely detected but it’s not doing what we have seen the Delta variant do, which is really take off”.
However, the new variant behaves differently and the concern now is that mutations suggest the C.1.2 variant could be “better at evading our immune systems and resisting our immune response”.
And while the efficacy of vaccines can vary as new variants emerge, “vaccines do still fight severe illness, hospitalisation and even death”, Reese said.
32 deaths investigated
Sahpra also appeared before Parliament’s Health Committee earlier this week to report on 32 deaths allegedly linked to the jab.
Of the 32 cases investigated, 30 were found to be coincidental. At the time of publishing, Saphra said there was insufficient information to rule on the remaining two deaths.
Sahpra CEO Tumi Semete on Wednesday said in 98% of cases reported, the patients were “elderly people [who] received vaccinations early on”.
“We did detailed assessments, age, comorbidities and any medication that they are on”, Semete said.
How to report AEFIs
The public and health professionals are encouraged to report AEFIs (adverse events following immunisation) to the health facility delivering the vaccine.
This can be done on the Med Safety App for Android and iOS phones, or by calling the COVID-19 hotline on 0800-029-999.
In the case of a death that occurred after vaccination, Sahpra said the following information must be submitted in order to facilitate a comprehensive causality assessment:
- An autopsy or post-mortem examination;
- Full clinical history, including any comorbidities and allergies; and
- Listing of all medicines taken prior to and at the time of the adverse event.