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Sahpra must give vaccine approval so SA can get ahead of Covid-19 mutations – DA

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“What we need is to get as many vaccines in the country as possible and vaccinate (as much) as possible so we can prevent further mutations and we can get out of this rolling lockdown“

DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

DA LEADER John Steenhuisen says the government and the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority need to approve as many vaccines as possible to get ahead of future mutations of the coronavirus.

Steenhuisen gave his alternative state of the nation address on Sunday and labelled the recent setback regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine as “disappointing”.

On Sunday night, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and a group of scientists from the ministerial advisory committee gave feedback on a recent study conducted on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus mutation discovered in the country late last year.

Professor Shabir Madhi from Wits University said research conducted on vaccine participants had shown that the AstraZeneca vaccine’s ability to prevent mild to moderate effects of the Covid-19 were diminished when tested against the 501Y.V2 variant.

This is the most dominant variant in the country at present. The government has since decided to halt the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was set to begin this week.

The government had acquired one million doses of the vaccine, which arrived last week.

Steenhuisen said there needs to be further unpacking of what the government’s next move will be since there is a short supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

On Sunday, Mkhize said the government would fast-track its acquisition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which would now be rolled out instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He said the country would now have to secure more doses of the more efficient vaccines and this, in turn, was worsened by the government’s lack of prompt action.

“Which makes the dropping of the ball last year on the vaccine crisis so much more damaging now. We are going to have a third or fourth wave later in the year because I do not think we are going to be able to reach the magic two-thirds number. The problem with delays in the vaccine roll-out is that you end up with more mutations,” Steenhuisen said.

The DA leader said the only solution now was for the government to let go of the centralised procurement of vaccines and only stick to approving their use in the country.

He said allowing the private sector to procure vaccines would help in getting as many vaccines as possible into the country so a lot of people could be inoculated – and thereby possibly getting ahead of any future mutations.

“What we need is to get as many vaccines in the country as possible and vaccinate (as much) as possible so we can prevent further mutations and we can get out of this rolling lockdown.

“The government needs to let the reins go on the acquisition, and the goal must now be (to) try and get your hands on as many vaccines as possible in whatever way you can so we can roll them out,” Steenhuisen said.

The DA last week filed court papers challenging the government’s alleged secrecy on the vaccination procurement programme. Steenhuisen said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office had yet to respond to the court application. Steenhuisen said this proved that the government had no plan.