Prof Salim Abdool Karim wanted to step down as early as September, says Mkhize

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Professor Salim Abdool-Karim.
Professor Salim Abdool-Karim.
  • Zweli Mkhize says Salim Abdool Karim wanted to step down from his position in September last year.
  • Abdool Karim is an infectious diseases specialist.
  • He has been at the forefront of SA's fight against the coronavirus.

Epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim already wanted to step down as chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 in September 2020, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

READ | Serving on MAC a 'labour of love', says Prof Salim Abdool Karim

On Tuesday, Mkhize briefed Parliament's health committee on the changes in the MAC, one of the main organs in the country's fight against Covid-19.

"The one advisory committee was led by Karim [and] co-chaired by Marian Jacobs. They have ably led this committee over the past year. He has been an outstanding leader and, as we all know, he is a top scientist; he has towered not only here, but globally.

"We have benefitted from his assistance and guidance. He has requested to leave and go back to the work that he has been doing. It relates to research and academic activities.

READ | Confusion over invermectin, but regulator maintains it's not approved for Covid-19 treatment

"He left some work incomplete and actually wished to leave as early as September. Through my persuasion, he stayed on until he completed his work for one year," Mkhize said.

As for the country's Covid-19 vaccine rollout, the health department's technical adviser, Dr Aquina Thulare, told MPs that, for now, the vaccines from Johnson and Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer will be administered.

Negotiations are still ongoing to procure vaccines from Russia and China.

She told MPs that vaccine safety, efficacy and immunogenicity were considered by the MAC.

Thulare said the MAC had several meetings with the Gamaleya Institute to procure the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

"There are five suppliers known to have approval to supply the vaccine. Sputnik suppliers have been engaging with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to obtain regulatory approval," Thulare said.

On the Sinovac vaccine, Thulare said Numolax has the rights for the vaccine.

READ | Aspen's R3 billion investment will produce vaccines for Africa and create jobs in SA

She said the MAC and Sahpra have been engaging Numolax to procure the vaccine.

Negotiations with Sinopharm are also ongoing.

"The company requested that a non-disclosure agreement is signed, which the DG has done. We have requested for additional data for the purposes of registration. Sinopharm has indicated that they are currently busy, and data will be shared later. We are awaiting feedback on the additional data from Sinopharm for regulatory approval," she said.

Mkhize said negotiations are ongoing with several major vaccine manufacturers.

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