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COVID-19 Conversations : The Podcast Series

COVID-19 Conversations : The Podcast Series

By African Alliance
COVID 19 Conversations - The Podcast Series brought to you by the African Alliance and the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group, seeks to provide a platform for researchers, advocates, and thought leaders to engage in thought-provoking conversations on COVID-19, science, and a wide range of other related issues that will be of interest to a diverse audience. The podcast aims to ask good questions, provide accurate information, make connections between different regions of the world, and highlight how interconnected we are in terms of our challenges and solutions.
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Loss & Love in the Pandemic

COVID-19 Conversations : The Podcast Series

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Research Belongs To Us
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s overarching goal is to translate scientific discoveries into affordable, globally accessible public health solutions. Much of the knowledge IAVI has gained from working on HIV prevention research can be applied to our efforts on COVID-19. We hear from a delightful dynamic duo: the organization’s Associate Director for Advocacy Policy and Communications (Ethel Makila) and the Medical Director (Dr Vincent Kioi) on some critical lessons learned, while also discussing the challenges that come with advocacy and meaningful capacity-building. We are reminded that our heavy lifts during the COVID-19 pandemic must not mean forgetting our unfinished work on old epidemics. And Ethel and Vincent touch on the preparation that is required for the inevitable challenges ahead. Additional Content: Our World in Data Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations Vaccines Security in Africa – Which Way Next? (IAVI Features – October 18, 2021) WHO recommends groundbreaking malaria vaccine for children at risk (WHO Press Release – October 6, 2021) Guests: Ethel Makila & Vincent Kioi Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production & Editing Support: Volume Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
44:30
December 22, 2021
These Are Not Small Wars
Lois Chingandu is the Director of Evidence and Influence at Frontline AIDS. A nurse by training, Lois was already working on HIV in the 1980s, providing home-based care to patients in Zimbabwe. She used the anger and helplessness that she felt watching people in Africa die without access to the treatment that was available elsewhere to fuel her HIV activism. Now, decades later, the same anger fuels her activism against COVID-19 vaccine apartheid. We hear from Lois on her personal experiences – both her memories from the HIV pandemic and her difficult recent ordeal as a COVID-19 survivor who has sadly lost loved ones to the pandemic. We also discuss issues of global equity, funding systems – for both HIV and COVID-19 – and how civil society can hold funders and leaders to account. Lois is a fighter and an inspiration. We hope this conversation motivates all of us, especially on the more challenging days, to push forward in this ongoing war for equity. Additional Content: Our World in Data Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations Vaccine access and challenges facing Africa (SABC News - December 11, 2020) Right to Breathe The impact of COVID-19 on HIV, TB and malaria services and systems for health (Global Fund Report - April 2021) Guest: Lois Chingandu Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production & Editing Support: Volume Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
43:26
November 12, 2021
A Litany for Survival
If you have been following any of the recent discussions on COVID-19 vaccine equity, you have definitely heard, read, and seen Dr Yodi Alakija. She is the Co-Chair of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance and one of the most vocal advocates for an end to vaccine apartheid. In this episode of COVID-19 Conversations – The Podcast Series Dr Alakija talks about her tireless work on vaccine delivery and shares her thoughts on African leadership, African accountability, and the importance of community engagement. Dr Alakija also discusses her own experience with SARS-CoV-2 – a virus that laid her out for weeks and, sadly, left her own family grieving after the loss of a loved one. Finally, Dr Alakija gives us just a small taste of the challenges she faces as a confident and outspoken African woman in leadership. She is a fearless and passionate advocate for gender equity, working to transform institutions in hopes of making the world a better place for us and for those who will come after us. Additional Content: Africa CDC COVID-19 Dashboard Our World in Data Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations A Litany for Survival Audre Lorde, 1978 Click here for a reading of the poem by Audre Lorde (date unknown). Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley Addresses United Nations General Debate, 76th Session September 27, 2021 Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, 2010 Guest: Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production & Editing Support: Volume Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
48:40
October 24, 2021
Glenda
In this episode of COVID-19 Conversations we are thrilled to hear from a world renowned researcher: the inimitable “Glenda”. Professor Glenda Gray is the President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, and has been one of the most prominent South African public health leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this candid conversation, she walks us through the whirlwind of the last 18 months and talks about how she juggled political drama while also leading a large COVID-19 vaccine trial. Professor Gray tells us what was going through her mind as she stood right behind President Ramaphosa while he rolled up his sleeve to get vaccinated on camera, and describes what it took to make that happen. She also reminisces about working on HIV research and treatment access twenty years ago and shares what lessons we can draw from that experience for our COVID-19 vaccine equity struggle today. Additional Content: The mission: How Glenda Gray became 'the closest thing South Africa has to Tony Fauci' (news24 - February 25, 2021) President Cyril Ramaphosa receives COVID-19 vaccine (eNCA - February 17, 2021) Glenda Gray #TIME100 (TIME - February 2017) Guest: Glenda Gray Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production & Editing Support: Volume Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
42:52
October 14, 2021
What's Poo Got To Do With It?
In this episode of COVID-19 Conversations – The Podcast Series we talk to two of the scientists responsible for the exciting and innovative wastewater surveillance programme at the South African Medical Research Council’s Environment & Health Research Unit. Professor Angela Mathee (Director) and Sizwe Nkambule (Senior Scientist) are part of a daring team tracking SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) accross South Africa through... poo! They tell us about how the program was developed last year and walk us through their meticulous process, from sample collection to analysis and reporting. We are introduced to their one-of-a-kind public-facing SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance dashboard and discuss how local and national governments can use this amazing early warning system for planning purposes. We also touch on how this work can be scaled across the African continent, both for this pandemic as well as in the face of other health issues affecting our communities. Further Reading: How waste water is helping South Africa fight COVID-19 (Nature - May 24, 2021) Wastewater surveillance for Covid-19: An African perspective (Science of the Total Environment - July 3, 2020) Guests: Angela Mathee and Sizwe Nkambule Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production Assistants: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic & Vivienne Naidoo Editor: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
54:56
July 20, 2021
"Not your typical scientist": Remembering Professor Gita Ramjee
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in a reflective mood. As we thought about the past year - who and what we have lost, how much we have learned, and the ways in which we have been transformed - we decided to focus on just one person who meant so much to us: Professor Gita Ramjee. She died of COVID-19 on 31 March 2020 at the age of 63. This episode is dedicated to Gita's memory. The excellence of Prof Ramjee’s work and her impact on the global HIV prevention field are well known and documented. She was a world renowned researcher and scientist who was passionate about the right of women to have access to quality services, real choices, and good health outcomes. At the time of her death, Prof Ramjee was the Chief Scientific Officer at the Aurum Institute, having recently transitioned from her long-time role as Chief Specialist Scientist & Director of the South African Medical Research Council’s HIV Prevention Research Unit. She held honorary professorships at universities in South Africa, the UK, and the US. In 2012 she was honored with the International Microbicide Conference’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A few years later, in 2018, she received the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership prize for Outstanding Female Scientist. When Gita Ramjee died, obituaries were written about her in newspapers all over the world, including the New York Times. Countless fellow-scientists made heartfelt statements about her leadership, vision, passion, and legacy. Heads of global organizations issued press releases about her impact on HIV prevention research. An annual international prize for leading women scientists was developed in her name.  All that said, this episode will not focus on Professor Ramjee's professional accomplishments. Instead, through just six people who knew her well, we get a glimpse of who she was as a person: Gita the mischievous friend, dedicated spouse, caring manager, proud parent, doting sister, great cook, adoring grandmother, style icon, and lover of good wine. We are tremendously grateful to Gita's entire family for agreeing to this episode. We send them strength and solidarity as they continue to process life without her. We also acknowledge the millions of other grieving families around the world who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Further reading: My mother was a rock in our family, says Gita Ramjee's son (IOL News - April 4, 2020) Gita Ramjee: a woman who pursued science for the greater good (The Conversation - April 2, 2020) Guests: Asmita Parashar, Ian McGowan, Neetha Morar, Nelly Mugo, Nikki Klatt & Sibusiso Nhleko Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production Assistants: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic & Vivienne Naidoo Editor: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
48:25
April 23, 2021
Fighting the War Against Vaccine Hesitancy (With Compassion, Humility & Facts)
In this episode of COVID19 CONVERSATIONS we talk with a philosopher about the roots of science denialism and what research tells us about how to address them in order to boost vaccine confidence at this critical moment in our history. Further Reading: South Africa’s immunisation record risks being dented by anti-vaccination views (The Conversation - January 21, 2021) How To Talk to COVID-19 Deniers (Newsweek - August 18, 2020) Vaccine Hesitancy, an Escalating Danger in Africa (Think Global Health - December 17, 2019) How to Debate a Science Denier (Scientific American - June 25, 2019) I used to be opposed to vaccines. This is how I changed my mind. (Washington Post - February 11, 2019) Guest: Lee McIntyre Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Production Assistants: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic & Vivienne Naidoo Editor: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
01:01:25
February 27, 2021
Loss & Love in the Pandemic
In this episode of COVID19 CONVERSATIONS we talk with two COVID-19 survivors about grief, guilt, loss, and intimacy in midst of a pandemic. Further Reading: Caring for Someone Sick [With COVID-19] at Home (US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - February 11, 2021) Zimbabwe: Covid cases dying at home as hospitals reach capacity (The Africa Report - February 5, 2021) What It Means of 1 Partner Tests Positive for COVID-19 And The Other Doesn’t (HuffPost - January 13, 2021) Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Home care for families and caregivers (Q&A) (World Health Organization - August 13, 2020) Guests: Paida Gurupira & Wilfred Gurupira Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Editor and Production Assistant: Luis Gonzalez Kompalic Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za www.africanalliance.org.za
53:58
February 14, 2021
ENSEMBLE Study Interim Results
In this episode of COVID19 CONVERSATIONS - The Podcast Series, we talk – for a second time – to Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, Chief Research Officer of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation in Cape Town. Professor Bekker is currently serving as Co-Chair of the South African arm of the Johnson & Johnson ENSEMBLE Study. ENSEMBLE is a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial for which interim results have just been released, with data that includes important findings from South Africa. Professor Bekker unpacks some of the numbers for us, and we talk about what makes this COVID-19 vaccine different from the others that have shown efficacy in the last few months. We touch on Linda-Gail’s own experience as a COVID-19 survivor and discuss critical questions of vaccine hesitancy, vaccine access, and the challenging work ahead. To hear our first conversation with Professor Bekker – which took place just before the ENSEMBLE Study was launched in South Africa – please click here. Further Reading: ·  Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial shows protection against Covid-19 deaths and severe disease (Maverick Citizen – January 29, 2021) ·  Johnson & Johnson brings another effective Covid-19 vaccine to the arsenal — in a single dose (Vox – January 29, 2021) Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum Guest: Linda-Gail Bekker Production Assistants: Vivienne Naidoo & Luis Gonzalez Kompalic Executive Producer: Tian Johnson Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za
59:12
February 02, 2021
Volunteering to be a part of history - Meet three COVID-19 vaccine trial participants
In November 2020, less than a year after SARS-CoV-2 was identified and named, the world received optimistic news about several COVID-19 vaccines that showed impressive efficacy in fighting infection and severe disease. We are now watching with excitement as the first COVID-19 vaccines are administered in the United Kingdom and the United States. Researchers and scientists often receive the accolades and awards when research is successful. Although that attention is well-deserved, we believe that the essential role of research participants – without whom none of these successes would be possible – should also be recognized and celebrated. In this episode we talk to three COVID-19 vaccine trial participants. Mx. Luckyboy Mkhondwane and Professor Francois Venter are both participating in the Ox1CoV-19 vaccine VIDA-trial (also known as the Oxford trial or the AstraZeneca trial) in South Africa. Dr. Brett Kissela is participating in the Moderna mRNA-1273 trial in the United States. We invite you to take a look back at a conversation we had with them before the results were released, discussing why they chose to undertake this service, what their experience was like, their hopes and fears, and what they want their fellow global citizens to know about the research process. Their insights also highlighted differences and similarities across South Africa and the United States in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Note: During this conversation we referred to the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa and the United States. Since recording, those numbers have grown significantly. For up-to-date global COVID-19 numbers, please refer to the WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard. Related Content: I'm in a Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial to honor my father, fight racism and exercise my power (NBC Think) Local doctor signs up to participate in Moderna vaccine trial at UC (WKRC) Taking part in the Covid-19 vaccine trial is giving me life and hope (Daily Maverick) Wits University senior clinicians volunteer for Covid-19 vaccine trial (Wits University YouTube channel) Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum, African Alliance Guests: Mx. Luckyboy Edison Mkhondwane (Treatment Action Campaign Prevention and Treatment Literacy Training Coordinator), Professor Francois Venter (Divisional Head of Ezintsha at the University of the Witwatersrand), and Dr. Brett Kissela (Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Research at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, and Chief of Research Services for UC Health) Audio Track: Bensound Voice Over: Lebogang Mashile Production Assistant: Vivienne Naidoo, African Alliance Executive Producer: Tian Johnson, African Alliance Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za
58:46
December 14, 2020
South Africa Launches new COVID-19 Vaccine Trial
In this episode of COVID19 CONVERSATIONS - The Podcast Series, we talk to Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, Chief Research Officer of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation in Cape Town. Professor Bekker is currently serving as Co-Chair of the South African arm...of the Johnson & Johnson ENSEMBLE Study.  ENSEMBLE is a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial which plans to enroll up to 60,000 participants in eight countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and the United States). Once it kicks off in South Africa, ENSEMBLE will become the third Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial underway in the country and on the continent.  In this conversation, Professor Bekker describes ENSEMBLE, and we discuss what makes it unique when compared with the other COVID-19 vaccine research currently underway. In addition, we explore how the many lessons learned from decades of work on HIV advocacy and research are being applied to the fight against SARS-CoV-2. Here are some resources relevant to this conversation that might be of interest: ·      Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker ·      COVID-19 Prevention Network (COVPN) ·      COVAX: Working for global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines Further Reading: ·      What we know about vaccine hesitancy in South Africa (Spotlight – October 7, 2020) ·      COVID-19 vaccines: how to ensure Africa has access (Nature – October 6, 2020) ·      Leveraging the advances in HIV for COVID-19 (Lancet – October 3, 2020) ·      Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine advances, sparking optimism in race (New York Times – September 23, 2020) Producer and Host: Maaza Seyoum, African Alliance Guest: Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, Desmond Tutu Health Foundation Audio Track: Bensound Voice Over: Lebogang Mashile Production Assistant: Vivienne Naidoo, African Alliance Executive Producer: Tian Johnson, African Alliance Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za
55:05
November 09, 2020
Ethics in Public Health Emergencies - Focus on COVID-19
In this first episode of COVID19 CONVERSATIONS - The Podcast Series, we talk about the role of ethics in COVID-19 Research, the role of communities where research is happening and the ethical responsibilities of scientists and researchers conducting clinical trials across the globe. Our guests, as we work on unpacking this multi-layered issue, are Professor Morenike Ukpong, a founding member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group and Dr. Samuel Ujewe is, a Research Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Genomics and Society in Ontairo. Professor Ukpong and has participated in several agenda‐setting initiatives relating to biomedical HIV prevention technology; and research ethics, both in Nigeria and internationally. She is based at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, Nigeria. Dr. Ujewe is a scholar in Applied Ethics & Health Policy, with specializations in inequities in global health, health and social justice, cross-cultural bioethics, and population health ethics. Further Reading: The Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings aims to stop the export of unethical research practices to low and middle income countries. A wide range of resources on Ethical research in the context of public health emergencies has been curated juts for you! View or download here! A range of up to date stats, commentary and data see The Milken Institute Host : Maaza Seyoum, African Alliance Guests: Professor Morenike Ukpong & Dr Samuel Ujewe Audio Track: Bensound Voice Over: Lebogang Mashile Executive Producer : Tian Johnson , African Alliance Queries: info@africanalliance.org.za
48:28
October 05, 2020