The Good News edition: Health

Ebola outbreak over

The human spirit is a wonderful thing: even in the face of fear and devastation, we manage to defy the odds. 

Take Ebola, for example. The virus was discovered in 1976, but the worst outbreak took place in west Africa from 2014 to 2016, killing over 10 000 people. Thanks to science and a massive, global effort, the 10th outbreak of this lethal virus was officially declared over in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November this year.

There are lessons we can take from Ebola for Covid-19: Ebola vaccines had to be transported to far-flung rural areas while being stored in cold temperatures. The World Health Organisation says those lessons, and the same technology, could be used to distribute Covid-19 vaccines.

Another lesson: healthcare workers really are heroes. Like with Covid-19, so many fought and died bravely to save lives in the face of the Ebola crisis. We salute them.

HIV breakthroughs

Another win for humanity, and especially SA, has been the many breakthroughs in the fight against HIV this year. 

New drugs were developed, from improved and easy-to-swallow medication for children, to advances in preventing mother-to-child-transmission.

But one of the biggest developments is a new anti-retroviral drug called cabotegravir. Studies show it is 89% more effective at reducing the risk of women contracting the virus. It can be administered by tablet or injection.

There are also three HIV vaccine trials underway. It’s enormously positive for SA, where according to UNAIDS, 7.5m people still live with the virus.

Covid-19 vaccine

It’s here! Less than a year since the outbreak of Covid-19, science came through for a world desperate for a vaccine. 

Two vaccines, produced by pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer, have been authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration. High-risk people and healthcare workers in the US, UK and Canada are getting jabs. In an effort to promote the vaccine’s safety and push back against the anti-vaxxer movement, US president elect Joe Biden got his shot this week. 

The debate about equal access to the vaccines among the world’s poorer countries rages on, but we’re celebrating the scientific achievement. 

This week, SA made its first payment towards a global vaccine initiative that could see us accessing small quantities of the vaccines next year, and that’s something to look forward to.

This brief was originally published in the good news edition of The Wrap here.
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