BDO Dr. Reed Tuckson: Will you summarize the extent of the research that you are learning from South Africa and how it pertains to giving the whole world new knowledge about fighting this coronavirus?
Dr. Marion Vermeulen: The first thing I think is because of the HIV pandemic that we have, and because of TB, we have excellent, as you said, we have excellent surveillance systems. We have a, we do a lot of sequencing and we have many laboratories around the country that perform that sequencing. And so when, when COVID came along, they were very quickly able to, um, convert that sequencing to doing sequencing of, of the virus of COVID as well. And so all the way along the labs have been taking a sort of sample of the positive cases and testing them, performing the full sequence on them. And that is why they discovered the BETA variant. And also now why they discovered Omicron. Omicron is a little bit more interesting. It was actually just discovered by one of our private laboratories, private pathology laboratories in Johannesburg, because they were using the test, the tech path test, which has on the S gene as has a dropout. So in other words, it wasn’t actually detecting because of the mutations didn’t detect that gene. So, so they were having positives on the other genes, but not on that gene which looked strange. And that’s when they alerted people to doing the sequence and actually realized that we had this, this new variant of concern. The scientists very quickly wanted to tell the world and yes, it backfired terribly. We were, we were red listed – our tourist industry took a bit of a dive. But hopefully, they have removed those restrictions and people are coming back into the country.
Dr. Keith Crawford: What does the pandemic look like in South Africa, who is affected the most and how you all are trying to help those populations most affected.
Dr. Marion Vermeulen: Um, so we saw many more people in the black population having been exposed to having had the virus, in fact, as high as around at the time, this was in may of around about 63% of the population compared to about 15% of white people, for example, sake. And this makes sense because you know, a country with a lot of poverty, and so a lot of people living in very, very, very close quarters. So although the country put in rules, for example of lockdown, and social distancing, that’s actually not possible in many, many areas in our country. And so from a point of view of how, who was exposed, without a doubt, the majority of the people were in the black population. However, what is quite interesting is that’s not the people who were presenting in hospital. So when they weren’t necessarily so vulnerable and had mild, very mild, infections, and, and part of that study that we did, we actually contacted the people who tested positive as well as a group of people who tested negative. And we asked them about symptoms that they’d had and, or whether they’d had symptoms, whether they’d been diagnosed, whether they’d gone to go and get tested or anything like that. And, the conversations were actually so interesting because the donors were like, no, what are you talking about? There’s no ways I could have had COVID I didn’t have any symptoms. I didn’t feel sick at all. And yet they definitely had, so I, we, then we were able to determine in that study that about 50% of the people had no symptoms whatsoever.
Dr. Reed Tuckson: Is there a relationship between taking these vaccines and negatively affecting human beings, fertility?
Dr. Cindy M.P. Duke MD, PhD FACOG: No. So the vaccines are safe. In fact, the vaccines protect your pregnancy and they protect your overall health and therefore your overall fertility or ability to safely carry babies. If you’re someone with uterus and ovaries, i.e. female, or identifying as a B non-binary. And if you’re someone with sperm and testicles, in fact, we know that the vaccines help protect your sperm counts, but specifically if you’re not vaccinated and you get COVID, you get really sick. You have higher rates of erectile dysfunction and damage to the testes. And so vaccines are protective. Not only for whether you’re planning to have kids, maybe you’re thinking I’m done with kids. So I don’t have to worry about fertility. It’s still important for sexual function and longevity to protect your health.
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