Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has said that an education campaign is vital if the South African government is to win in dispelling fake news and misinformation relating to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Nzimande was speaking at a webinar on Wednesday, organised by his department to combat fake news around Covid-19 vaccination in the fight against the virus.
He compared the global disruption of the pandemic to that witnessed in the Second World War.
The webinar underscored the seriousness and urgency with which government is responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already taken more than 2-million lives globally and about 48 000 lives in South Africa.
“The fake news and misinformation spectre is at the heart of the urgent need for this conference,” Nzimande said.
He said conceptualising the history of the vaccines was important and reminded that vaccines and vaccinations did not arise with the outbreak of Covid-19.
“We need this education and focus because many scientists will tell you that we have truly entered the age of the pandemics. We will be lucky if during this decade we don’t have another huge pandemic to face,” warned Nzimande.
He said his department had made available R69.2-million to fund research and innovation, covering about 91 projects.
He reiterated that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research had entered into an agreement with Kentucky Biological Products for the potential manufacturing of the antigen of their vaccine.
Nzimande’s department is also supporting a study conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand, in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council, called the AstraZeneca vaccine trial.
Nzimande also called for more collaboration between South Africa and countries such as China and Russia on issues relating to the vaccine.