Pretoria – The process to conclude a R25 million investment to boost pan-African vaccine manufacturing was underway, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr. Blade Nzimande said.
He was speaking on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa during the virtual national conference on Covid-19 on Friday.
The conference brought together scientists, government, business, and civil society representatives from all over the world in open discussion towards a greater understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on society and the economy.
Nzimande said the international community was unanimous in that services, supplies, products, and technologies for prevention, treatment, and care of Covid-19 must be available to all.
In addition, resource constraints posed a very real barrier to the ability of vulnerable countries to manage the pandemic. “Science, technology, and innovation have proven to be important tools for generating valuable insights and for the delivery of effective solutions.
“A platform such as this enables scientists, governments, business and civil society to engage in open discussion, to share experiences and best practice, and to chart the way ahead.”
He said the country needed to continue to work tirelessly to develop technological solutions that met the country’s most pressing challenge, and that was resource scarcity.
Nzimande also announced that the country would soon witness the first ventilators produced by the South African National Ventilator Project coming off the assembly line at a factory in Cape Town.
He said the South African Medical Research Council and his department had provided R10million in funding for the first South African Covid-19 vaccine trial. “Our researchers and scientists have the expertise to develop human vaccines, having been involved in the development of several other vaccines,” he said.
Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel told the conference: “In March, when the virus reached our shores, we had no local manufacturing capacity for ventilators and yet the health-care demand for ventilators surged. But today, as we speak, South African-designed and manufactured ventilators are rolling off the production line.”
Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize said that despite the huge surge that made South Africa rank fifth highest in positive cases in the world, there were reasons to be hopeful.
“We have mobilised support from medical experts who advise on protocols to put in place for day-to-day management.
“Lessons on case management and discovery of effective medications such as dexamethasone, early use of oxygen, including preference for non-invasive oxygen support and other treatment regimens, have resulted in a low mortality rate of below 2%.”