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COVID-19 vaccines

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The first batch of COVID vaccines touched down in South Africa in February 2021. Health workers were the first to get a jab under the Sisonke study. But even before the country had bought any jabs, our reporters were writing about the logistics and the politics of the project. If you want to know how well the vaccines work, how the different jabs compare or what it takes to create a vaccine from research, to regulation, to rollout, you’re at the right place.

HomeSpecial ReportsCOVID-19 vaccinesThe jabs that could save us — an introduction to COVID vaccines...

The jabs that could save us — an introduction to COVID vaccines for journos

  • We co-hosted an online course on COVID vaccine science for journalists. 
  • The course content was conceptualised by Bhekisisa and the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care at Stellenbosch University. 
  • Lectures were presented by experts from Africa and are now available on this page — for free.

The COVID pandemic turned all journalists into health reporters overnight — but without equipping them with the science and health knowledge to report accurately.

The reality is that, over the years, few media organisations have had the financial resources to appoint specialist health journalists. In an effort to help equip Africa-based journalists new to the beat with the knowledge and skills to cover the continent’s COVID vaccine roll-out, we co-hosted a Vaccine Science 101 course for journalists. Our partner was the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care at the University of Stellenbosch

This two-week, introductory course builds on a course Bhekisisa co-hosted in 2020 on epidemiology. That course, created by Madhukar Pai — a renowned epidemiologist and head of the McGill International TB Centre — introduced Africa journalists to key concepts in epidemiology that would help them with reporting on COVID.

Bhekisisa’s Vaccine Science 101 course is a standalone series of four lectures and could be taken without attending the Epidemiology 101 series. The course content was conceptualised in partnership with the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care.

The course gave journos an introductory look at aspects of vaccine science dominating recent headlines. These included: 

  • Session 1: How vaccines work, how safety and efficacy are tested and how vaccines are approved.
  • Session 2: How vaccine programmes are implemented, cold chain management, herd immunity and community uptake. 
  • Session 3: Why we have variants, and how they impact vaccine development.  
  • Session 4: Vaccine procurement mechanisms like COVAX and the African Union’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

We received close to 100 applications from journalists across Africa: Tunisia to South Africa; Guinea to Kenya — 16 African countries were represented in the course.

Participants on the Vaccine Science course attended four 90 minute-long lectures presented by public health experts across the continent. Each session included a question and answer component of at least 30 minutes. 

Missed the course? We’re making it available for free, so that you can benefit from it too.

Session 1 — Vaccine development 

Date: Monday 8 March 2021
Presenter: Hassan Mahomed
Watch the lecture recording 
Download the slides 

Session 2 — Vaccine programme implementation

Date: Thursday 11 March 2021
Presenter: Richard Mihigo
Watch the lecture recording 
Download the slides 

Session 3 — Variants and vaccines

Date: Monday 15 March 2021
Presenter: Mary-Ann Davies
Watch the lecture recording 
Download the slides 

Session 4 — Vaccine procurement mechanisms

Date: Thursday 18 March 2021
Presenter: Charles Wiysonge
Watch the lecture recording 
Download the slides