South African scientists have identified a new potential variant of interest of Covid-19, C.1.2, and it could drive the fourth wave of infections in the country.
Principal medical scientist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Dr Jinal Bhiman, said the identification of new variants is commonly associated with new waves of infections.
“In South Africa, this certainly has been the case with our second wave being dominated by the Beta variant and our third wave being dominated by the Delta variant. This is exactly why we are striving to understand the functional impact of the C.1.2 mutations as rapidly as possible,” she said.
The new variant was first identified in May 2021 during the third wave of Covid in the country.
It has been detected in all provinces, however at a much lower frequency, as the Delta variant has continued to dominate.
“At present we are investigating the functional impact of the mutations found in the C.1.2 lineage. Based on predictions and what we know about some of these mutations, we suspect that our current vaccines will still be effective at preventing hospitalisation and death after infection with C.1.2. In terms of transmissibility and pathogenesis however, the data is too limited currently,” said Bhiman.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla, says the government is reluctant to implement a mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policy.
On Friday he said suggestions have been made by a number of influential people that the government should consider a mandatory vaccine policy.
He said he doesn’t foresee a kind of national government regulation which will force everyone to get vaccinated and that at this stage it is just a suggestion they are looking into.
Meanwhile, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, infectious disease expert and former chairperson of the government’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, says a mandatory vaccine policy is critical to ensure that people are healthy and safe and can return to employment and other activities as soon as possible.
According to Karim, those who could not be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, have to be tested at least once a week in order to ensure that they are not putting everyone at risk.
South Africa could soon follow the United States in fully approving the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
According to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), the Pfizer vaccine has reached the final stages of full approval in the country.
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to move beyond emergency-use status.
Sahpra spokesperson Yuven Gounden, said the health regulator was aware of the FDA’s full approval and that rolling reviews were continuing.
In the US, the Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna were distributed under emergency use authorizations, but now the FDA has approved use of the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 years and older.
The Pfizer vaccine has been available in the US under emergency use since December 2020.
In South Africa, Sahpra approved Pfizer’s Section 21 application in March, and began administering the vaccines in May.
Keep an eye out next week for another roundup of the top Covid-19 stories.