During the past week, numerous rumours that South Africa may receive vaccines developed by Russian and Chinese vaccine manufacturers emerged. Although these rumours were confirmed by the health minister and he admitted that SA is in discussion for doses from these countries, experts are of the opinion that it is highly unlikely that South African regulators will approve this.
The budget that the South African government has set for vaccines is nearly double of what is needed to vaccinate a substantial proportion of the population, even considering that the budget aims for the most expensive vaccine which is globally approved.
Professor Glenda Gray, one of the country’s foremost scientists and president of the South African Medical Research Council, who is currently working with, and running, the Johnson & Johnson phase three vaccines on South African soil, has said that it is unlikely that the Russian and Chinese vaccines will be approved for use in the country.
South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) is not likely to approve the vaccines unless there is improved safety and efficacy data forthcoming.
Among many legislative duties, SAHPRA is responsible for the approval of all medicines as well as trials and machines which are used to medically treat humans in South Africa. The vaccines that health officials have been deliberating with Russian and Chinese are the Russian Sputnik V and two other vaccines manufactured by Sinovac and Sinopharm. Although these vaccines are made on well-known and traditional vaccine platforms, the largest issues remain that of safety and efficacy data. According to experts, SAHPRA is not likely to approve the vaccines without this, despite the political pressure that it may face.