Sahpra 'should not be forced to bow to political pressure' - acting health minister

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Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.              Photo by GCIS
Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. Photo by GCIS
  • The acting health minister says SA's drug regulator should not be forced to bow to political pressure.
  • The EFF marched to Sahpra's offices to demand the use of Sputnik V and Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Sahpra said the EFF wanted it to approve vaccines without adhering to the components of quality and efficacy.

Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says the targeting of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) by political parties is unfortunate and dangerous.

Thousands of EFF members marched to the Sahpra offices in Pretoria on Friday to demand the drug regulator authorise the use of the Sputnik V and Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines.

The party also demanded the Sahpra board chair, Helen Rees, be removed with immediate effect.

"Our country's regulatory system should not be forced to bow to any amount of political pressure, particularly to authorise the use of vaccines at a whim, without due process being followed," said Kubayi-Ngubane.

"This is dangerous and should not be condoned in a democratic South Africa."

READ | Sahpra’s Covid-19 vaccine approval process: ‘The safety of the public takes precedence’

She said vaccines could not be registered and approved in the absence of clear information about its efficacy.

Sahpra said, in a statement, it could not allow political pressure to cloud a clear, science-based approach to approving health products.

Saphra CEO Boitumelo Semete said:

It will be a sad day in the country when the regulator is undermined or influenced by any party.

"In essence, the EFF wants Sahpra to approve vaccines without adherence to the critical components of safety, quality and efficacy. This could compromise public safety."

Semete said the regulator would respond to the EFF's memorandum, but wanted to emphasise that it did not favour any applicant as alleged by the political party.

She said allegations against Rees, pertaining to her husband, Fazel Randera's, alleged links to Aspen were "totally unfounded and false".

Aspen currently has a deal with Johnson & Johnson to package its vaccines at its Gqeberha factory.

The board of directors at Liseko Investments also released a statement on the matter. The investment holding company is owned by a group of medical doctors, including Randera.

ALSO READ | Malema gives Sahpra 7 days to approve Sputnik, Sinovac vaccines - or else more protests

"Liseko holds no direct or indirect interest in the business, operations or strategy of Aspen Pharmacare and averments to the contrary are false and libellous," said board chair Phetole David Sekete.

"In 2005, Liseko purchased a minority equity interest in a consortium that, in turn, held a small equity stake in Aspen Pharmacare. At no time during the period of the investment was Liseko’s beneficial interest in Aspen material.

"Liseko was not involved in either the board or operations of the consortium or of Aspen Pharmacare. In 2015, Liseko exited the investment and the shares were unbundled to its shareholders, after which Liseko held no further direct or indirect interest in Aspen Pharmacare."

Sekete said Randera disposed of his resultant beneficial interest in Aspen, following the unbundling in 2015, and prior to the appointment of Rees at Sahpra.

"Liseko's only investment currently is in a small medical IT company. We take deep exception to the scurrilous libel directed at Liseko and its directors, and will pursue such legal remedies as we deem appropriate."

Rees said, during Saturday's media briefing, that Sahpra is currently reviewing three Covid-19 vaccines for licences, namely Sinovac, Sputnik V and Sinopharm, and is following strict procedures to do so.

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