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Johannesburg – The EFF will take to the streets in Pretoria today to demand vaccines.
The party is marching to the offices of the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) in Pretoria.
The march has been criticised as it takes place during the third wave of the pandemic where gatherings have been sharply limited to prevent rising infections.
The EFF is demanding the organisation speed up the approval of Russia’s Sputnick V vaccine and the Chinese Sinovac manufactured Coronavac vaccine.
The party has for a while advocated for the government to procure these two vaccines. Sahpra had indicated in February that it was reviewing applications linked to the Sinovac and Sputnick vaccines.
The EFF has been critical of the government’s handling of the vaccination programme saying more diverse vaccines should be procured. EFF leader Julius Malema said President Cyril Rampahosa could not continue imposing lockdowns and should instead be providing vaccines.
The party said it would follow Covid-19 regulations during the march.
The EFF issued invitations to some political parties to join the march, but some have rejected this saying it made no sense and would put people’s lives at risk.
The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said the party would not join as the move would put people’s lives at risk.
“To accept it would be to endorse the deeply irresponsible actions of the EFF who are placing the lives of South Africans in danger through a super spreader event.
Brett Herron, from GOOD, said the EFF’s march made no sense.
“There is no evidence that Sahpra is unreasonably withholding approval for any vaccine. It is in nobody’s interest that its regulatory processes are subverted,“ he said.
On Thursday, Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, Sahpra CEO, said the protesting was every South African’s constitutional right. She stressed that Sahpra only dealt with the “science” on its vaccine approval process.
“We make decisions based on the science behind every vaccine. We go through detailed reviews. We are evaluating Sinovac and Sinopharm.
“We are really busy as an organisation and we will concern ourselves with the science,” she said in response to the EFF’s demands.
On Wednesday, in a statement, the organisation again clarified the status of the review.
“Sahpra has also received applications for Coronavac (Manufactured by Sinovac) and the Sputnik V (Manufactured by the Gamaleya Research Institute) vaccines. The evaluation of the Coronovac application is at a very advanced stage.
“The Sputnik V application is a rolling review. Thus, as data becomes available to the applicant it is submitted to Sahpra,“ the organisation said.
The institution this week also clarified that it had received documentation from the Sinopharm vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical group. It will begin reviewing the data.
Health expert Dr Aslam Dasoo, from the Progressive Health Forum, said the EFF’s calls were political and premature.
“Sahpra has to what it is legally bound to do,” Dasoo said.
“I expect registration for those vaccines, which have already been approved by the WHO for emergency use, will pass muster here,” he said.