Government did listen to science and was right to ditch ...

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Government did listen to science and was right to ditch AstraZeneca

As the experience of Beta variant-besieged nations that stuck with AZ shows, SA had a narrow escape, says top advisor

Barry Schoub

I refer to the editorial, published on June 29, titled  “Government did not listen, so here we are again” (https://select.timeslive.co.za/ideas/2021-06-28-editorial--government-did-not-listen-so-here-we-are-again/). The article attacks the government for not listening to “some of the country's foremost scientists”. It imputes that the reason the country is now facing a particularly severe third wave of Covid-19 is that it didn’t listen to science.

The truth is that the government did listen. It listened to its appointed scientific advisers, the ministerial advisory committee on vaccines (VMAC) advisers selected for their scientific expertise. Let’s examine that scientific expertise. The VMAC is a body of 18 of SA’s foremost scientists in the field of Covid-19 vaccines — virologists, immunologists, epidemiologists and so forth. The VMAC is further advised by additional national experts in specific fields, as well as some of the most widely recognised international authorities on Covid-19.

The science behind the advice given to the government not to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine was described in a follow-up editorial in the South African Medical Journal. The scientific evidence was based both on the only clinical trial of the vaccine on the Beta variant, headed by Prof Shabir Madhi, and extensive laboratory work in KwaZulu-Natal and at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases...

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