Sahpra approves yet-to-be-rolled-out Pfizer vaccine for general population
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Cape Town - The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said that the yet-to-be-released Pfizer vaccine was so far the only one approved for an emergency roll-out across the general population, according to Sahpra chief executive Dr Boitumelo Semete.
Semete told a briefing of the legislature’s Covid-19 ad hoc committee that the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines, which are being given to health-care workers under Phase 1 of the roll-out, are currently part of a trial and not for general roll-out among the population.
“Several pre-submission meetings were held with prospective vaccine manufacturers to ascertain, among other things, application requirements including the available information applicants have to support their applications.”
At the same time the provincial Health Department told the committee that the J&J vaccines came in batches from leftovers from other clinical trials around the world, and that this was why the roll-out was slow.
According to the department, the efficacy of the vaccines was already evident. Currently only 23 health-care workers in the Western Cape were infected with Covid-19, which was the lowest seen since the start of the pandemic in April 2020.
Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said that only 50% of the Western Cape’s health-care workers were set to be vaccinated by the time the department hoped to have received the Pfizer vaccines, in early April.
Mbombo said: “This misses the national deadline for the vaccination of health-care workers.”
“The Pfizer and J&J approvals have been granted by Sahpra, and Covishield, a variant of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, has had approval granted, but it’s roll-out has been put on hold,” said Mbombo.
Meanwhile, during the question and answer session, committee member Cameron Dugmore (ANC) wanted to know how the one-shot vaccines compared with the ones requiring two shots.
Head of health, Dr Keith Cloete, said: “The J&J vaccine would be first prize for the department because it is a one-shot vaccine and thus cheaper and logistically easier to administer.”
Cloete said: “The province has already trained 2 351 vaccinators who are GPs, nurses, pharmacists, EMS and other front-line workers.”
Committee chairperson Mireille Wenger (DA) said: “The slow pace of vaccine roll-out is failing health-care workers, firstly, and by extension, the population of this country.
“South Africa has vaccinated just under 240 000 health-care workers, while other developing countries are far ahead. We are, however heartened by the announcement that the application for the approval for the J&J vaccines is at an advanced stage and a decision on this is imminent,” said Wenger.
She said the delays were both frustrating and disappointing, and that each day that passed meant more lives affected by the virus.