South Africans are looking for vaccine transparency, says new MAC chair
As Professor Koleka Mlisana steps into her new role of co-chair of the Covid-19 Ministerial Advisory Committee she says she looks forward to making vaccine commitments as transparent to South Africans as possible.
Mlisana’s appointment was made last week after epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim announced he would be stepping down from his role and returning to his academic commitments after his one-year term as co-chair of the Covid-19 MAC.
“What I am looking forward to is making sure that we give the best scientific advice we can give to government. We also need to be very transparent because that is what South Africans are looking for. If we come across like that, we can get a lot more confidence,” said Mlisana.
One of the gaps Mlisana has identified in government’s dealing with the Covid pandemic is a lack of communication.
“We as the MAC need to craft an advisory that will address how best the government should be communicating with South Africans. There has been a lot of misinformation and mistrust around the whole pandemic. We need to find a way of better communicating from a point of trust. There must be a very clear plan on what government will do surrounding the vaccines.”
Mlisana has already served as a member of the MAC as chair of the pathology/laboratory sub-committee and she now assumes the co-chair role with Professor Marion Jacobs.
A third wave needs to be delayed as far as possible, she said, and whatever restrictions the government sets, South Africans need to abide by them.
“We know the challenge the country has as far as liquor is concerned. Unfortunately we have shown that we cannot act responsibly. Large gatherings, liquor and the curfew, we would need to put restrictions on that. We have advised government and we are waiting to see whether they agree with our recommendations or not,” she said.
Mlisana said she expects her new role to come with great responsibility and expectations, however, she is honoured and appreciates the confidence people have in her.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he was grateful that there would be good preservation of institutional knowledge which ensures a continuity in the leadership of the MAC.
“We wish Professor Mlisana all the very best and assure her of our support as a department and as government.”
Mlisana said she assumed the role from a leader she has looked up to and worked with for a number of years.
“The advantage that I have is the fact that the MAC, which has been around for a year, has been led by an excellent individual, Professor Salim Abdool Karim. I have worked with him for a very long time; from the time Caprisa (Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa) started I was a director under his leadership. He has always been someone who has opened a lot of doors for me.”
Since July 2018, Mlisana has worked as the executive manager of academic affairs at the National Health Laboratory Service.
She has previously been an active HIV/Aids researcher for over a decade focussing on HIV prevention and pathogenesis, working at Caprisa in Durban.