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Infectious Diseases

Updated 09 October 2020

Coronavirus morning recap: Covid reinfection, and vaccine hesitancy in SA

A poorly developed immune response could possibly lead to Covid-19 reinfection, research suggests; and what we know about vaccine hesitancy in South Africa.

LATEST SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

READ | Poorly developed immune response could most likely lead to Covid-19 reinfection, research suggests

As Covid-19 spreads, many experts are questioning the validity of the herd immunity theory. Researchers are asking whether it will be possible to stave off Covid-19 as more people develop antibodies.

While previous research has shown that recovery from Covid-19 is associated with a production of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, it is still uncertain whether these antibodies can provide long-term immunity.

There is also the ongoing question of Covid-19 reinfection – where people test positive twice for SARS-CoV-2. Although the phenomenon is not well understood at this stage, reinfection could lead scientists to an effective vaccine and better treatment.

In a recent pre-print case study that appeared on the database medRxiv, a team from the University of Washington investigated a case that suggests a poorly developed immune response and waning antibody levels could make people more susceptible to reinfection.

The case study refers to a care-home resident in their sixties who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after developing severe pneumonia. After more than a month in hospital, the patient tested negative.

READ | What we know about vaccine hesitancy in South Africa

Fewer than two-thirds or 64% of South Africans would accept a Covid-19 vaccine when and if it becomes available, a recent Ipsos survey has found. Of that 64%, only 29% “strongly agreed” to a vaccine while the rest “somewhat agreed”.

This is lower than the average of 74% of about 20 000 adults surveyed in 27 countries who said they would agree to get a vaccine.

The survey conducted on behalf of the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that most adults (59%) did not believe a vaccine would be available before the end of the year and the number one reason for rejecting a Covid-19 vaccine was fear of adverse events (side effects) followed by concerns about the effectiveness of a vaccine against Covid-19.

Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare at the WEF, said in a statement that “the 26% shortfall in vaccine confidence is significant enough to compromise the effectiveness of rolling out a Covid-19 vaccine”. The forum urged governments and the private sector to build confidence and ensure that manufacturing capacity meets the global supply of a Covid-19 vaccination programme. This would require public funding arrangements that remove restrictions to vaccine access.

South Africa falls in the group with the least intention to get vaccinated (below 70%), which includes Russia (54%), Poland (56%), Hungary (56%), France (59%), South Africa (64%) and Italy, Germany, the USA, and Sweden (all at 67%). The group most willing to get a Covid-19 vaccine includes China (97%), Brazil (88%), Australia (88%), and India (87%).

Of the 5 000 participants globally who would reject a Covid-19 vaccine, 56% said they were worried about adverse events. Over half (53%) of the 180 South Africans who would not accept a Covid-19 vaccine, were also concerned about safety. It is not clear how representative of the general population the South African study participants are.

CORONAVIRUS CASES LATEST

SA cases update: 

The latest number of confirmed cases is 686 891.

According to the latest update, 17 408 deaths have been recorded in the country.

There have been 618 771 recoveries.

So far, more than 4.3 million tests have been conducted, with 21 172 new tests reported.

Global cases update:

For the latest global data, follow this interactive map from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

Early on Friday morning, positive cases worldwide were more than 36 million, while deaths were just over 1 million.

The United States had the most cases in the world - more than 7.5 million, as well as the most deaths - close to 213 000.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Latest news:

READ | You can now get a Covid antibody test at a Dis-Chem drive-through station

Dis-Chem now offers Covid-19 antibody tests at its drive-through testing stations.

The test, priced at R380, will show whether it was "very likely" that a person had Covid-19 and developed an immune response, the pharmacy group says.

Unlike the Covid-19 nasal swab test, also offered by Dis-Chem (for R850 each), the antibody test cannot necessarily detect active cases of Covid-19. The antibody test should start to pick up antibodies from fourteen days after a person started experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus.

But even if the antibody test shows that you may have had the coronavirus, scientists are still not sure whether you will be immune to future infections.

Coronavirus antibodies dwindled to undetectable levels after just two or three months for 40% of asymptomatic people and 13% of symptomatic people, according to a recent study.

"Given the current level of knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests, it is important to stress that regardless of your test result, patients must continue to apply basic non-pharmaceutical interventions (hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing of masks)," said Lizeth Kruger, Dis-Chem’s national clinic manager.

READ | Covid-19 corruption: Hawks seize electronics, documents in probe into R2.7m Eastern Cape PPE tender

The Hawks have seized electronic items and documents as part of an investigation into a R2.7-million personal protective equipment (PPE) tender awarded by the Eastern Cape education department.

The search and seizure operation was conducted in King William's Town early on Thursday morning.

"A trading company was awarded the tender to provide the personal protective equipment to the department," Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said.

He said it was understood that the company was paid the initial R2.7 million and then a further R198 000 into two different bank accounts.

Mogale said they also understood that the company details were suspect and that a case of fraud and misrepresentation was at "an advanced stage".

No arrests were made.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD 

Latest news:

READ | Trump suggests he caught Covid-19 because he let families of fallen soldiers at an event get too close

President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that family members of deceased troops might have given him Covid-19 at a recent White House event days before he contracted the virus.

"I meet a lot of people. I have to. I'm the president of the country. I can't hang around in a basement, so I figured there would be a chance that I would catch it," the president told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo Thursday morning.

"Sometimes I'd be within groups, for instance, Gold Star families," Trump said. "I met with Gold Star families. I didn't want to cancel that."

The president attended the White House event recognising the families of 20 fallen service members on Gold Star Mother's and Family's Day. The event was held on the last Sunday in September, just four days before Trump announced on Twitter that he and his wife had tested positive for Covid-19.

Photos from the indoor event show the chairs set up right next to each other and that most attendees did not wear masks, measures which are strongly recommended by health professionals to limit the virus' spread.

"They all came up to me and were telling me a story. Maria, it was really amazing actually. Beautiful but sad," Trump said of the event. "They tell me these stories, and I can't say 'Back up. Stand ten feet.' You know, I just can't do it."

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Maintain physical distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

Image credit: Getty Images