A number of health organisation have come together in defence of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), ahead of a march by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to Sahpra’s offices in Tshwane on Friday.
On Thursday, the 12 organisations condemned the EFF’s “reckless rhetoric”, after party leader Julius Malema demanded during last week’s Youth Day commemoration that Sahpra approve the use of Russian and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines – Sputnik V and Sinovac in the country.
“This reckless rhetoric echoes similar attacks on the institution by parties such as AfriForum and special advocacy groups and lobbies unhappy with Sahpra’s evidence-based stance on ivermectin, alleging that the institution was ‘irresponsible’, ‘biased’ and abetting the ‘destruction of lives’.
“We condemn such behaviour and fully support the vital regulatory role that Sahpra plays in ensuring that all medications and vaccines undergo rigorous examination to assess the safety, efficacy and quality of products prior to them being registered or authorised for use in the country,” the organisations said in a joint statement.
The organisations consist of:
- Wits University Faculty of Health Sciences
- South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)
- Southern African HIV Clinicians’ Society (SAHCS)
- Progressive Health Forum (PHF)
- South African Medical Association (SAMA)
- Infectious Diseases Society of South Africa (IDSSA)
- South African Antibiotic Stewardship Programme (SAASP)
- South African Academy of Family Physicians
- Gauteng General Practitioner Collaboration (GGPC)
- Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA)
- Health Justice Initiative (HJI)
- People’s Health Movement – South Africa (PHM-SA)
Malema last week said the party would march to Sahpra offices and after that, give the health body seven days to approve the Russian and Chinese vaccines.
“Failure to do, we [EFF supporters] are going to do a sleep-in at the house of the CEO of Sahpra [Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela] until they protect lives.
“We are going to her [Semete-Makokotlela’s] house. Sahpra must approve Sputnik and Chinese vaccine [Sinovac] to add onto what we have now. If we die, let’s die, because we are going to die anyway.
“The CEO of Sahpra has allowed businesspeople and politicians to use her. They are pocketing at the expense of our people. We are coming for her peacefully next week Friday. If she doesn’t respond positively, we will sleep outside her house until they approve this medicine,” he said.
[WATCH ????]: Next week Friday the EFF will picket at the offices of SAHPRA.
We want vaccine from China and Russia provided in South Africa. We will then give them 7 days to approve those vaccines.
If they fail to we are going to do a sleep-in at the house of the CEO of SAHPRA. pic.twitter.com/PjKcadOSrn
— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) June 16, 2021
In response to the mooted march, Sahpra said it would not be pressured to allow the public access to any product that had not met the necessary regulatory requirements.
Sahpra said it was still awaiting outstanding information about Sputnik V and Sinovac, before it could begin the approval process.
Earlier on Thursday, the South African Police Service (Saps) warned the EFF and those planning to participate in Friday’s march to the Sahpra offices to comply with lockdown regulations.
“The Saps is aware of the EFF’s planned March on Friday,” police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili said.
“Law enforcement agencies have met and contingency plans to police the march are in place.”