Health body says it won’t be bullied into allowing Russian and Chinese vaccines

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) says it will not be pressured to allow the public access to any product that has not met the necessary regulatory requirements.

So far, SAHPRA has approved the Pfizer and the J&J vaccines and also received applications for Coronavac (manufactured by Sinovac) and the Sputnik V (manufactured by the Gamaleya Research Institute) vaccines.

Currently it is in no position to approve the use of Sinopharm and Moderna vaccines in the country because an application for their review has not been submitted, it said in a statement on Monday.

SAHPRA was responding to public questions on why other vaccines are not being used in the country amid the slow vaccine roll-out as the country battles the third wave of Covid-19 infections.

Currently, Gauteng is by far the hardest hit province in the country, with the number of new cases this week having exceeded the peak in previous waves.

As a result, hospitals are reaching capacity, and healthcare workers are struggling. The provincial government has now brought it South African National Defence Force medics to assist in hospitals.

ALSO READ: R2 billion set aside to fight Covid-19 raging in Gauteng

Meanwhile, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will on Friday march to the SAHPRA head office in Tshwane to demand vaccines.

“We demand that SAHPRA must finalise the approval and authorisation of Sputnik V and Coronavac within seven days, and the government must make these vaccines are available for all the people,” said the party.

While the the evaluation of the Coronovac application was at an advanced stage, the Sputnik V application is a rolling review, and as data becomes available to the applicant, it is submitted to SAHPRA, the health body said.

In a media briefing last week, SAHPRA chair Prof Helen Rees said they were still waiting on more information about the Sputnik V vaccine to properly review it.

“It’s not taking a long time to review Sputnik. There were two applicants and what they’re doing is called a rolling review. As they get data, they submit it to SAHPRA and we’re reviewing that data on a continuous basis,” Rees said.

“This speeds things up because we’re not getting a huge file of information that the regulator has to suddenly try and evaluate. They’re still submitting some of that data, so we don’t have all the data that’s required for a complete review yet.

“What we have to do in case of the vaccines is to ensure they’re safe, of good quality and manufactured properly so that by the time they arrive in the country they still have a very good standard and they’re effective.”

The other concern, according to SAHPRA, was the prevalence of variants of concern such as the beta variant in the country.

“This requires that SAHPRA ensure efficacy against such variants and hence information on studies supporting efficacy would be expected to be provided by the applicant. SAHPRA will not be pressured to allow the public access to any product that has not met the necessary regulatory requirements,” it said.

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