While the world remains focused on containing the spread of Covid-19, this should not avert our attention away from the ongoing battle to eradicate the many other diseases that can affect the quality of life for millions of South Africans.
One of these is tetanus, which has seen seven suspected new cases being reported in the first quarter of 2020, two of which are neonatal. Neonatal tetanus is usually prevented by maternal immunisation.
According to CEO of Cipla Paul Miller: "Immunisations have proven to be one of the most cost-effective public health interventions to date. A country's routine immunisation service is often measured by the percentage of children receiving diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP)." However, while South Africa was considered to have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2002, it is estimated that only around 77% of the country's population have received the DTP vaccinations (as of 2019).
"Vaccines can only prevent disease if they reach the intended population," says Miller. History shows that vaccines have played an instrumental role in improving the lives of South Africans for many years. The Expanded Programme on Immunisation in South Africa (EPI-SA) was first introduced in 1995 and it is estimated that this programme not only prevents over 2.5 million premature deaths per year, but it protects millions of people from illness and disability. Yet the country's immunisation rate is still below the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommended coverage rate for countries worldwide and reports indicate that the national immunisation rate is dropping (in part due to the Covid-19 national lockdown) - which may lead to the recurrence of this preventable disease in South Africa.
In light of this, Cipla - in partnership with the Serum Institute of India, experts in manufacturing cost-effective quality medication - has announced the launch of a new tetanus toxoid vaccine that can be used for the prevention of this infection in infants, children and adults. "Our partnership with SII enables Cipla to help address the issue of vaccine shortages in South Africa," says Miller.
Miller explains that the tetanus toxoid vaccine, which will be rolled out across South Africa over the coming months, will be made available to South African patients at a significantly lower price point than similar vaccines currently on the market, due to significant breakthroughs in its development. "Most notably, the new tetanus toxoid vaccine has been formulated to deliver more doses per vial. It will be distributed to hospitals and clinics in 5ml vials, which can deliver 10 doses each and last for up to 28 days once opened," he explains.
Taking up the call to do more and offering these life-saving vaccines to the most vulnerable populations, Cipla is staying true to its 'Caring for Life' company motto that ensures access to high quality and affordable medicines. Miller said Cipla will be launching a number of new vaccines in South Africa in the foreseeable future.