Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
13 September 2021 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath

As a public higher-education institution in South Africa with a responsibility to contribute to public discourse, the University of the Free State (UFS) will be presenting the webinar as part of the Free State Literature Festival’s online initiative, VrySpraak-digitaal. 

The aim of the webinar series is to discuss issues facing South Africa by engaging experts at the university and in South Africa. Some of the topics for 2021 include, among others, reimagining universities for student success; corruption in South Africa – the endemic pandemic; South African politics and the local government elections; and Is South Africa falling apart. In 2020, the webinar series saw the successful participation of leading experts discussing COVID-19 and the crisis facing the country socially, economically, and politically. 

This year, in lieu of the Free State Arts Festival, the UFS will present the webinar virtually over a period of six months. 

Fifth webinar presented on 28 September 2021

A number of surveys have found some degree of vaccine hesitancy among the public. This webinar will clarify why we need to vaccinate against COVID-19 and why vaccines are safe. A major development in the COVID-19 pandemic has been the arrival and distribution of safe and effective vaccines. As the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 spreads around the world, the vaccine has proven to be safe and effective enough to prevent severe life-threatening COVID-19 complications. Although vaccines do not fully protect everyone who is vaccinated, nor guarantee zero transmission, a great deal of adherence to other measures is still required. Returning to a new normal routine of life can only happen as more people are vaccinated.

Date: Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Topic: Why vaccinate?
Time: 12:30-14:00
RSVP: Alicia Pienaar, by 24 September 2021 


Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS


Prof Adrian Puren
Acting Executive Director
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)

Dr Nicholas Pearce

Head of Department: Surgery
Faculty of Health Sciences, UFS

Prof Glenda Gray
President and CEO
South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)

Dr Angelique Coetzee
South African Medical Association (SAMA)

Bios of speakers:

Prof Puren is the newly appointed Acting Executive Director of the NICD since December 2020. He was trained and held a lectureship at the University of the Witwatersrand, before taking on various positions at the NICD. Prof Puren was appointed as Deputy Director and Head of Virology in 1999, and as Head of the Centre for HIV and STIs in 2017.  As Head of Virology, he focused on developing and implementing a range of viral diagnostic platforms in support of the NICD’s EPI surveillance programmes and diagnostic support.

His main interest is in the development of HIV surveillance programmes, with a particular focus on HIV incidence and the use of ‘big data’ to inform surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation. Prof Puren heads the regional and national endpoint diagnostics laboratory for HVTN-supported vaccine and antibody-mediated preventions trials, and he serves as the quality assurance technical manager for the NICD. In this capacity, he has provided support to the National Department of Health’s implementation and quality assurance of HIV rapid testing. Prof Puren serves on various expert bodies, the most recent of which is the South African Lancet Commission on High-Quality Health in the era of Sustainable Development Goals.

Dr Nicholas Pearce

Dr Pearce graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2002, after which he completed his internship at the Universitas Academic Hospital in 2003 and has been in the Free State ever since. He completed his postgraduate training at the University of the Free State and obtained a master’s degree in General Surgery as well as a Fellowship in General Surgery from the College of Surgeons to qualify as a subspecialist in vascular surgery.

Over the years, Dr Pearce has been a consultant in general surgery, a vascular fellow and head of vascular surgery, and is currently the Head of General Surgery at the University of the Free State as well as in the Free State province. He serves on the national Association of Surgeons of South Africa (ASSA), is a member of the Vascular Society of Southern Africa and is an examiner for the College of Surgeons. He also serves on the board of the College of Surgeons as an executive member, is a member of the European Society for Vascular Surgery, and an executive member of the Surgical Research Society of South Africa.

He is responsible for undergraduate, postgraduate, and subspecialist training at the University of the Free State, as well as nationally, and is often an examiner at other institutions throughout South Africa. His publications over the years have been in the surgical field on diverse topics covering the ambit of surgery in South Africa. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, he has been instrumental in setting up multiple field and surge facilities throughout the province, as well as several vaccination sites. Dr Pearce has also been involved in multiple studies on COVID-19 over the past year, is currently serving as a provincial task team member for COVID-19 and is also the Universitas COVID-19 task team chair.

Prof Glenda Gray is the President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and former Chair of the Research Committee on COVID-19, providing scientific evidence and experience to the Minister of Health and the National Coronavirus Command Council. 

Prof Gray studied medicine and paediatrics at Wits University, where she remains Full Professor: Research in the School of Clinical Medicine. She is a National Research Foundation A1-rated scientist and is world-renowned for her research on HIV vaccines and interventions to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. Prof Gray, together with James McIntyre, co-founded and led the globally eminent Perinatal HIV Research Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, for which she and McIntyre received the Nelson Mandela Health and Human Rights Award in 2002.

She is co-principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and directs the programme in Africa. 

Prof Gray’s accolades include, among others, the Hero of Medicine Award from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, and the Outstanding Africa Scientist Award from the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.

She was named one of Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women by Forbes, and by TIME as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2013, Prof Gray was awarded South Africa’s highest honour, the Order of Mapungubwe. Her qualifications include MBBCh (Wits), FCPaeds (SA), DSc (honoris causa Simon Fraser University), DSc (honoris causa Stellenbosch University), and LLD (honoris causa Rhodes University).

Dr Angelique Coetzee is the National Chair of the South African Medical Association (SAMA) and is leading Pillar 5 on health service delivery of the Presidential Health Summit. She has extensive knowledge of private practice and is a member of various initiatives driving primary healthcare. Over the years, Dr Coetzee held numerous chair and vice chair positions in the SAMA on national and branch level. Dr Coetzee was a member of the National Ministerial Task Team on Military Hospitals in 2013; Chairperson Ministerial Medical Task Team on Internal and External Deployment SANDF 2014, and was elected as Vice Chair of the Medical Parole Advisory Board 2011.
Her credentials include BMedSci and MBChB (University of Pretoria), Post graduate Certificate in Advanced Health Management (CUM LAUDE)  FPD, Post graduate Higher Certificate in Criminal Justice and Forensic Investigations at the Faculty of Law from the University of Johannesburg , . She is currently completing her fraud examiners certificate with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

News Archive

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.