Siyanda Ndlovu
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
25 Jun 2021
4:04 pm

‘No pillow talks on vaccine’: Malema calls for Sahpra’s chair to quit

Siyanda Ndlovu

Malema questioned why the J&J vaccine was given preference over the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinovac vaccines.

EFF supporters during the vaccines march to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority on 25 June 2021. Picture Jacques Nelles

One of the demands made by the EFF is the immediate resignation of South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) chairperson Helen Rees.

Speaking at a protest outside SAHPRA’s office in Pretoria today, EFF leader Julius Malema threatened that if Rees did not resign in seven days, the EFF would march to her house and stage a sleep-in outside.

He said Rees must resign because of her husband’s involvement with Aspen, which is a partner in the production of the J&J vaccine at the Gqeberha plant.

“No lovey-dovey and pillow talk on the vaccine, we need boardroom talk we need scientific talk,” Malema said.

“We want a vaccine now and we want her to go. She has become a stumbling block for us getting a vaccine.”

Malema questioned why the J&J vaccine was given preference over the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinovac vaccines.

“What is it that is extremely wrong with Sputnik V and Sinovac, which is not found in J&J? We know the relationship of Cyril Ramaphosa and Aspen,” he said.

ALSO READ: Science over politics: Sahpra sticks to measured vaccine process amid pressure

Malema also took a swipe at President Cyril Ramaphosa and made calls for the release of the CR17 campaign trail’s finances.

He said J&J was given preference because it is from the west and those who gave money to the CR17 campaign to allow Ramaphosa into the presidency were from the pharmaceutical industry. They formed part of white monopoly capital and he described them as puppet masters of the president.

He said the march was “rolling mass action” and the party would not rest until everyone is vaccinated.

Malema also restated the EFF would not comply with lockdown regulations.

“The only regulation the party is willing to entertain is one that involves vaccination. Everything of the EFF is proceeding whether on level 5 or not. We require no instruction from a man who doesn’t have a plan,” said Malema.

SAHPRA on Thursday held a webinar aimed at debunking assumptions about the vaccine approval process and assuring citizens of SAHPRA ’s independence and scientific precision with which it handles applications for Covid-19 vaccines and other medicines.

Three-tiered evaluation

SAHPRA CEO Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela said the body had dedicated significant resources to managing and expediting the process of vaccine approvals.

There are three factors considered in the application: quality, efficacy and safety. In terms of quality, the body looks at whether the product complies with good manufacturing practices, while efficacy relates to scientific evidence that the medicine works as proposed.

The safety aspect looks at adverse effects, which is an ongoing data collection process.

Professor Marc Blockman, chair of the pharmacovigilance committee at SAHPRA, explained the body’s decisions were influenced by a multitude of factors, including that of other regulatory bodies around the world and all the scientific evidence available to it.

“We rely not only on what is put in front of us in terms of a rolling dossier or dossier of data, which we will look to analyse, but also we rely on what other regulatory environments have suggested as well as for example, the WHO [World Health Organisation] and take all of these into consideration when making a decision on the safety and effectiveness of medicine but also on a vaccine in this situation,” Blockman said.

ALSO READ: Health body evaluates efficacy of Sinopharm vaccine

The body relies both on published and unpublished data in this regard. There is also a post-approval commitment to continue monitoring the effects of vaccines in the rollout to prevent severe illness after patients have received vaccines.

Side effects are monitored by the body on a daily basis. This process includes the training of healthcare workers to enable them to recognise adverse events and report them to SAHPRA in a timeous fashion.

This week SAHPRA confirmed it had received documentation for the Sinopharm vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group. The regulatory body will now commence with evaluating the data in assessing the efficacy of the vaccine.

Additional reporting by Simnikiwe Hlathsaneni