Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
3 minute read
23 Jun 2021
2:06 pm

DA rejects EFF invitation to join picket at SAHPRA offices

Thapelo Lekabe

'SAHPRA should be allowed to do its scientific work without undue political influence,' says DA.

EFF leader Julius Malema addresses a large crowd on June 16 Youth Day. Picture: Twitter/@EFFSouthAfrica

The DA has rejected an EFF invitation to join its picket at the offices of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on Friday to demand the approval of the Sputnik V and Sinovac vaccines.

DA national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube on Wednesday said to accept the invitation would be an endorsement of the EFF’s “deeply irresponsible actions” to hold a protest as the country battles the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gwarube said the march to SAHPRA’s offices in Arcadia, Pretoria would put the lives of South Africans in danger as the picket is likely to be a super-spreader event.

“Gauteng is already the epicentre of the third wave of infections, contributing more than 50% of the new daily Covid-19 infections,” she said in a statement.

“To host a mass march like this will not only endanger the supporters and attendees but also those who they’ll be in contact with, a situation which could overwhelm the health system to the breaking point for many of our healthcare workers.”

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The EFF and its leader Julius Malema were roundly criticised last week for holding a mass Youth Day rally outside Uitsig High School in Pretoria, despite calling for the postponement of the municipal elections in October due to the pandemic.

The rally took place amid the massive spike in coronavirus infections recorded in Gauteng and the government limiting all gatherings, including political events, to a maximum of 100 people outdoors.

Gwarube said many of the people who taking part in the EFF march would battle to find a hospital bed and oxygen should they get infected with Covid-19, while the political elite will have access to the best medical care.

“Politicians should not use South Africans as fodder in the battle against a government that has already let them down. It is short-sighted and frankly criminal,” she said.

SAHPRA explains its position

Last week, SAHPRA chairperson Professor Helen Rees denied claims the regulator was refusing to approve Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinovac vaccines.

The only vaccines that have been approved by SAHPRA for emergency use in the country are the double-dose Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines as well as the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

Rees said the regulator was conducting a rolling review of vaccines on a continuous basis as they receive data on their efficacy .

“This speeds things up because we’re not getting a huge file of information that the regulator has to suddenly try to 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,” she said.

“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 have a very good standard and they’re effective. We look at the clinical trial data that is presented to us.”

‘Allow SAHPRA to do scientific work’

The DA said while it agrees that many more Covid-19 vaccines should be in circulation and there should be decentralised distribution, SAHPRA should be allowed to do its scientific work without undue political influence.

“Any credible regulator has to be above the political jostling that the EFF is drawing SAHPRA into,” Gwarube said.

She said the DA was focusing on presenting workable solutions on the table for the government to adopt in order to save lives.

“Urgent intervention is needed in Gauteng to unlock additional beds, the rollout of the vaccination programme needs to ramp up significantly and greater transparency is needed on the number of vaccines in the country. We need to constantly check the rate of vaccination against the supply.

“Our concern remains saving lives and livelihoods, even in the face of rank government failure. We cannot let South Africans down.”

Additional reporting by  Vhahangwele Nemakonde