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The SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) expects to be granted access to vaccination data soon after meeting the national department of health on sharing the information.
On Monday the SAMRC said the department had blocked access to data on vaccinations, raising concerns that studies into the efficacy of Covid-19 jabs and the transmissibility of the virus could be held back.
The SAMRC needs the vaccination data to track and understand how common breakthrough Covid-19 infections are in people who have been vaccinated, and the severity of illness linked to the Omicron variant in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
The data belongs to the Department of Health and is subject the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia), which governs the personal use of data.
Additionally, registration for vaccination on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) provides a guarantee that the data will not be used for any other purpose than personal medical records.
SAMRC head of communications Dr Alfred Thutloa said on Wednesday that agreements between the agency and the Department of Health were at “an advanced stage and implementation will be expedited”.
The challenge will be using the data while keeping it anonymous and ensuring personal information is used in line with Popia.
SAMRC President and CEO Professor Glenda Gray emphasised that the data would be accessed for medical research only.
“The SAMRC will work with the Western Cape department of health to utilise this data for research purposes and for nothing else,” she said.
Researchers evaluating the data will be an extension of the national department of health team, Gray added.
“We appreciate the support from the national department of health as health data is important in research to better understand diseases and improve healthcare decisions and delivery,” she said.
The department and SAMRC were amending their data sharing agreement and they should access the data soon, Gray added.
Preliminary indications are that infection with Omicron leads to mild symptoms, but experts have warned it is too early to tell because there is always a few weeks’ delay between an increase in Covid-19 infections and the number of patients requiring admission to hospitals.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.