Health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has announced the creation of a Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) that will focus on Coronavirus vaccine development. Mkhize made the announcement in a statement on Monday.
“In addition to the multi-sectoral MAC focusing on community mobilisation, another MAC has been created to focus on Coronavirus vaccine development,” Mkhize said.
The team will advise government on all matters about the Coronavirus vaccine development and rollout, and monitor and report on progress in candidate studies.
It will also give guidelines on purchasing options and will study the feasibility for the country to manufacture vaccines in future.
“This will ensure that the Department of Health and government are kept abreast on all critical developments internationally relating to the vaccine,” Mkhize said.
Professor Barry Schoub, who is an expert in vaccinology and virology, will chair the committee.
The other members include Biovac CEO Dr Morena Makhoana; Department of Science and Technology’s Glaudina Loots; South African Health Products Authority CEO, Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela and Vaccines for Africa’s Professor Greg Hussey.
Immunologist and South African Health Products Regulatory Authority board member Professor Jeff Mphahlele; World Health Organisation’s expert advisor Professor Helen Rees; Ethicist’s Professor Ames Dhai and National Treasury’s Dr Mark Blecher are also on the MAC.
Meanwhile, Professor Salim Abdool Karim and Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana will be observers.
The Minister said with the changing pattern of the pandemic, government has deemed it necessary to reconfigure the existing Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19.
The reconfigured MAC, the Minister said, would take into account the need for the inclusion of social and behavioural scientists, among other considerations.
The Health Department has confirmed that the number of COVID-19 infections is declining, along with the demand for hospital beds and oxygen.
“Undeniably, an important contributor to the decline we are witnessing in the transmission of Coronavirus is the action of ordinary South Africans, who continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions,” Mkhize acknowledged.
“This nation has shown that with concerted effort and solidarity it is possible to beat Coronavirus.” However, he continued to urge citizen to adopt the “new normal”.
“If we are to maintain this status quo of low transmission rates, we must continue to concentrate on the simple things that keep Coronavirus at bay,” he said.
He has called on people to wash their wash or sanitise their hands, maintain a safe distance between each other, regular cleaning and sanitising of surfaces, and wearing of masks in public.
“The threat of a resurgence that could be more devastating than the first wave of infections remains very real. We must always remember this,” said Mkhize.