Webinar Focuses on COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters
COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Doses in Low-Middle Income Settings: The Science, Politics and Ethics, was the title of a webinar hosted by UKZN’s Developing Research Innovation, Localisation and Leadership (DRILL) programme in association with the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).
Presented by the Unit Director of the SAMRC HIV Prevention Research Unit (HPRU) Professor Ameena Goga, the webinar delved into the science behind COVID-19 boosters, the politics behind vaccine coverage in low-income households, and the ethics of who will benefit from the vaccine.
Goga, who was welcomed by UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Mosa Moshabela, said: ‘The goal of COVID-19 immunisation is protection against hospitalisation, severe disease and death.’
According to Goga, there have been 245 million cases of the infection since the onset of the pandemic last year and almost five million deaths. ‘There is now an urgent need to increase the distribution of vaccine boosters.’
She listed factors including the booster vaccine, the target population, the intensity of initial exposure and a circulating variant of the virus as being important in the light of decreasing immunity.
She referred to the Sisonke study into the protection of healthcare workers which was completed in May this year and has successfully administered the Ad-26 COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. According to the study, the vaccine had proved effective in providing protection against death and hospitalisation.
When comparing the J&J and Pfizer vaccine, ‘in-vitro, the J&J vaccine works better against the Delta variant, and gets better over time with both Delta and Beta. Vaccine effectiveness in the delta-proxy period looks better than in the beta-proxy period in healthcare workers in South Africa,’ said Goga.
The presentation further highlighted the unequal distribution of the vaccine boosters especially in low-income countries. Goga says the World Health Organization has warned that 42 African countries were likely to fall short of the vaccination target.
Words: Mandisa Shozi