Cape Town | The current media attention that the National Department of Health (NDoH) has blocked access to data from the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) to researchers from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is regrettable. The SAMRC is in discussion with NDoH to be able to secure it. The data is needed to evaluate efficacy of vaccines, which has become extremely important in the context of Omicron.
The SAMRC also tracks the number of deaths above that expected in any given week based on historical data since the early days of the pandemic. Every week, the SAMRC Burden of Disease Research Unit shares an updated Report on Weekly Deaths in South Africa, this has been possible through the sharing of health data from the NDoH, Department of Home Affairs and Stats SA. Data on all deaths registered on the National Population Register are provided by the Department of Home Affairs to the SAMRC and have been used to prepare Annual Rapid Mortality Surveillance Reports, and during 2020-21 to prepare Reports on Weekly Deaths.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become essential to track the weekly number of deaths that occur. Deaths recorded on the National Population Register are provided to the SAMRC on a weekly basis. These have been scaled up to estimate the actual number of deaths by accounting for the people who are not on the population register and the under-registration of deaths.
The SAMRC and NDoH are working together to amend their data sharing agreement. South Africa has world class scientists who have combined forces to produce COVID-19 research that has made an important contribution to the global response to the pandemic.
“Without the support of the NDoH this research would not have been possible. The emergence of the Omicron variant in the current state of disaster has highlighted that the sharing of data between responsible authorities, consistent with constitutional protections regarding privacy, is urgently required to inform an effective public health response. In the spirit of Ubuntu let us work together and strengthen the systems, we have to do this!” said Prof Glenda Gray SAMRC President and CEO.
The past few weeks has emphasized the collaboration between the NDoH and scientists, added Gray.
More about the SAMRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit
The SAMRC’s Burden of Disease Research Unit was formed to provide information on the trends in the country’s health status as well as causes of disease for future planning to improve the health of the nation. It has developed exceptional expertise in summary health measures, health surveys, and mortality data and health informatics analysis.