Online

Activists call for revolution in ‘dated and colonial’ aid funding

1st of December 2021

In a call to action, Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship want donors to offer flexible, long-term funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights and ensure leaders, those allocating grantsand programme teams reflect the communities and groups they seek to support. They also want the “tiresome barriers and bureaucratic loops and hoops” involved in applying for funds to be removed.

Community media left behind in the fight against the COVID-19 infodemic

31st of March 2020

Reporting on COVID-19 presents significant hurdles for community media who could be a key resource in fighting mis- and disinformation, argues advocacy group the African Alliance.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has become our everyday story—statistics on deaths, new infections, and vaccine developments have become daily and weekly headlines. The virus has caused social anxieties that keep the public glued to any form of media for more information. Depending on where one lives, news media is the first place to find the latest COVID-19 developments. For many South Africans who live in rural areas and townships — and outside of the large urban cities in general — community media is their first, and sometimes the only, source to that information.

Why can’t the distribution of vaccines just be fair

22nd of March 2020

As the Alliance’s lead on research, Wilfred oversees the conceptualization, design, sector ownership, implementation, and reporting of all research-related actives, partnerships, and engagements. He thinks about study design, strategic research partnerships, the design, and development of data collection instruments, how results are reported on, published, and presented, and ultimately how results are translated to inform decision making and resource allocation.

 

Wilfred was hosted by Sky News , to speak about fair access to COVID-19 vaccines. He also highlighted the massive imbalance between rich countries and developing nations over the availability of vaccines.

Behind vaccine doubts in Africa, a deeper legacy of distrust

4th of March 2020

Vaccine hesitancy in Africa is often rooted in distrust, shaped by a long history of inequality. An effective pandemic response includes addressing those doubts. Some concerns about vaccine safety stem from its quick development, spooked further by unverified claims of deaths following immunization in Europe. Tian was quoted in this article as having said, “We find that information needs to come from trusted and local sources, like community leaders,”.

Vaccine misinformation: What to do when it’s coming from leaders

1st of March 2020

What is the best way to fight misinformation about COVID vaccines (of which there has been plenty in South Africa) spread by leaders?  Attacking them directly by correcting their myths or skepticism with scientific information, is simply not the answer, research shows. Rather, we should focus on the people they’re trying to reach and expose the techniques influential people use to distribute the wrong information.

 

Read More: https://bhekisisa.org/article/2021-03-01-vaccine-misinformation-what-to-do-when-its-coming-from-leaders/

 

Additional links to the above article:

https://www.news24.com/news24/columnists/guestcolumn/opinion-vaccine-misinformation-what-to-do-when-its-coming-from-leaders-20210228

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-02-28-vaccine-misinformation-what-to-do-when-its-coming-from-leaders/

https://mg.co.za/health/2021-03-01-what-to-do-about-leaders-spouting-vaccine-misinformation/

COVID-19 Conversations Podcast: Participation in vaccine trial 
17th December 2020

The African Alliance spoke to three COVID-19 vaccine trial participants about their experience in the trials, their hopes and fears, and what they want their fellow global citizens to know about the research process. One of the guests on the Podcast was Brett Kissela, MD, senior associate Dean for clinical research at the UC College of Medicine and chief of research services at UC Health. 

 

His insights also highlighted differences and similarities across South Africa and the United States in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. You can listen to the podcast here. 

SA’s vaccine hesitancy could undermine the millions invested, says experts 

16th December 2020

NOTE: Affiliation of Tian Johnson listed by AfroCentric is incorrect: Tian Johnson is the founder and lead of the African Alliance (www.africanalliance.org.za) and a founding member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group (www.thevarg.org)

The African Alliances Tian Johnson speaks about how vaccine hesitancy has the potential to undermine all the efforts that have gone into vaccine development, and the way forward will be finding the right people with direct influence in different communities.

https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times-daily/news/2020-12-16-sas-vaccine-hesitancy-could-undermine-the-millions-invested-say-experts/  

Read Full Article

The public will buy into the vaccine programme if there is transparency in how the science is communicated, says Tian Johnson.

 

Vaccine hesitancy has the potential to undermine all the efforts that have gone into vaccine development, and the way forward will be finding the right people with direct influence in different communities.

 

So said Tian Johnson, speaking on behalf of the Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, at a webinar organised by the AfroCentric Group, a health-care investment company.

 

He said we can “invest millions in the right cold chain, and have all our science and infrastructure right, but if communities aren’t excited or are fearful of buying into it, it jeopardises all the work done so far”.

 

The best way to build trust and integrity is through transparency.

 

Most importantly, messaging has to be done in ways that are suitable to the cultural context, while “the best way to build trust and integrity is through transparency.”

 

Johnson said a positive move in the Covid-19 context, compared to research done for HIV, was that “there had been a huge opening up of science not seen before.”

 

Research has always been “traditionally very white and closed and exclusive in this country, but with Covid-19, we have seen scientists really opening up about their work”.

 

However, that alone won’t be enough: it doesn’t help to just “give out info”, he said. “Evidence shows that dishing out information does not counter hesitancy — a lot rests on the messenger and their potential to influence those around them.”

 

It is also important that the government doesn’t “engage directly with anti-vaxxers”, he said, as all this does is amplify anti-vaxxer power and give it a larger platform.

 

Also speaking at the webinar was Prof Greg Hussey, director of Vaccines for Africa at the University of Cape Town.

 

He agreed “the biggest conundrum” is whether people “will accept the vaccines or not”.

 

“A poll done a month ago in 27 countries found that 74% of people said they would accept a vaccine, but in SA it was only 64%. That means 36% would refuse, and reasons included worrying about the side effects or believing the vaccine was not going to be effective. Others were simply against vaccines in general, and still others said they were not at risk of contracting Covid-19 and thus did not need a vaccine,” he said.

 

Safety and efficacy undergo rigorous analysis at the trial stage, and despite the speed at which vaccines have been developed, this has not been compromised.

 

However, said Hussey, there are certain unknowns that require more time before a definitive answer is found: “What we do not yet know about these vaccines is how long the immunity conferred can last after someone’s been vaccinated. Also, while we know that they have reduced Covid-19 disease and severity, we don’t yet know if they [the vaccines] can stop community transmission. The most hopeful in this case is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”

 

He said data from the Cape metro in the Western Cape and Mombasa in Kenya suggested 40% of adults had antibodies by now, which would suggest that they’re protected, “but we don’t know for a fact”.

 

If they were, then theoretically only 60% of the population would need to get shots, but that is now how immunisation programmes work.

 

With the exception of Dengue Fever in certain contexts, “there is no vaccine programme in the world that first checks who has antibodies before vaccinating”.

 

The department of health’s Dr Anban Pillay said perhaps some people had shied away from the vaccines that used mRNA (messenger RNA) technology as it had been described as “new”.

 

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines use mRNA technology.

 

This means that genetic material called messenger RNA is introduced into the body and instructs human cells how to make coronavirus spike proteins.

 

These vaccines, using lipid nanoparticles, deliver the mRNA into muscle cells, and from there, the muscle cells make a spike protein which then readies the immune system to guard against infection.

 

This differs from more traditional vaccines which introduced a non-harmful version of a pathogen into the body so that the immune system could mount a response.

 

In Pillay’s words, “with mRNA, a viral genetic code is introduced into a cell and consequently stimulates the immune system”.

 

But, he says to those who fear this “new technology”, it is not in fact new.

 

“It is not an entirely new concept in medical science but it is the first time it is being used in vaccines. We should really not be overly alarmed that it’s ‘new’.”

SA’s vaccine hesitancy could undermine the millions invested, says experts 

16th December 2020

NOTE: Affiliation of Tian Johnson listed by AfroCentric is incorrect: Tian Johnson is the founder and lead of the African Alliance (www.africanalliance.org.za) and a founding member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group (www.thevarg.org)

The African Alliances Tian Johnson speaks about how vaccine hesitancy has the potential to undermine all the efforts that have gone into vaccine development, and the way forward will be finding the right people with direct influence in different communities.

https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times-daily/news/2020-12-16-sas-vaccine-hesitancy-could-undermine-the-millions-invested-say-experts/  

Read Full Article

The public will buy into the vaccine programme if there is transparency in how the science is communicated, says Tian Johnson.

 

Vaccine hesitancy has the potential to undermine all the efforts that have gone into vaccine development, and the way forward will be finding the right people with direct influence in different communities.

 

So said Tian Johnson, speaking on behalf of the Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, at a webinar organised by the AfroCentric Group, a health-care investment company.

 

He said we can “invest millions in the right cold chain, and have all our science and infrastructure right, but if communities aren’t excited or are fearful of buying into it, it jeopardises all the work done so far”.

 

The best way to build trust and integrity is through transparency.

 

Most importantly, messaging has to be done in ways that are suitable to the cultural context, while “the best way to build trust and integrity is through transparency.”

 

Johnson said a positive move in the Covid-19 context, compared to research done for HIV, was that “there had been a huge opening up of science not seen before.”

 

Research has always been “traditionally very white and closed and exclusive in this country, but with Covid-19, we have seen scientists really opening up about their work”.

 

However, that alone won’t be enough: it doesn’t help to just “give out info”, he said. “Evidence shows that dishing out information does not counter hesitancy — a lot rests on the messenger and their potential to influence those around them.”

 

It is also important that the government doesn’t “engage directly with anti-vaxxers”, he said, as all this does is amplify anti-vaxxer power and give it a larger platform.

 

Also speaking at the webinar was Prof Greg Hussey, director of Vaccines for Africa at the University of Cape Town.

 

He agreed “the biggest conundrum” is whether people “will accept the vaccines or not”.

 

“A poll done a month ago in 27 countries found that 74% of people said they would accept a vaccine, but in SA it was only 64%. That means 36% would refuse, and reasons included worrying about the side effects or believing the vaccine was not going to be effective. Others were simply against vaccines in general, and still others said they were not at risk of contracting Covid-19 and thus did not need a vaccine,” he said.

 

Safety and efficacy undergo rigorous analysis at the trial stage, and despite the speed at which vaccines have been developed, this has not been compromised.

 

However, said Hussey, there are certain unknowns that require more time before a definitive answer is found: “What we do not yet know about these vaccines is how long the immunity conferred can last after someone’s been vaccinated. Also, while we know that they have reduced Covid-19 disease and severity, we don’t yet know if they [the vaccines] can stop community transmission. The most hopeful in this case is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”

 

He said data from the Cape metro in the Western Cape and Mombasa in Kenya suggested 40% of adults had antibodies by now, which would suggest that they’re protected, “but we don’t know for a fact”.

 

If they were, then theoretically only 60% of the population would need to get shots, but that is now how immunisation programmes work.

 

With the exception of Dengue Fever in certain contexts, “there is no vaccine programme in the world that first checks who has antibodies before vaccinating”.

 

The department of health’s Dr Anban Pillay said perhaps some people had shied away from the vaccines that used mRNA (messenger RNA) technology as it had been described as “new”.

 

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines use mRNA technology.

 

This means that genetic material called messenger RNA is introduced into the body and instructs human cells how to make coronavirus spike proteins.

 

These vaccines, using lipid nanoparticles, deliver the mRNA into muscle cells, and from there, the muscle cells make a spike protein which then readies the immune system to guard against infection.

 

This differs from more traditional vaccines which introduced a non-harmful version of a pathogen into the body so that the immune system could mount a response.

 

In Pillay’s words, “with mRNA, a viral genetic code is introduced into a cell and consequently stimulates the immune system”.

 

But, he says to those who fear this “new technology”, it is not in fact new.

 

“It is not an entirely new concept in medical science but it is the first time it is being used in vaccines. We should really not be overly alarmed that it’s ‘new’.”