The DA’s Siviwe Gwarube said there was obviously great confusion between the differentiation of the trial, the actual vaccine rollout, and the various phases of that rollout.
“I think perhaps instead of throwing jabs at each other, as members I think it is an opportunity for the department to clarify because if members of the committee themselves are slightly confused about which is which, whether or not this is the first phase of the rollout in its entirety or a trial. And, if it is so, then are health-care workers very much aware of this and what would be made of the second and the third phase of the rollout?”
ACDP MP Marie Sukers said the interchanging of the words “vaccine rollout” and a “vaccine trial” had caused confusion among health-care workers.
“We cannot ignore the lack of clarity that in the beginning of administering the J&J vaccine to health-care workers, I received messages in which health-care workers were themselves uncertain as to whether they are part of a vaccine rollout or a vaccine trial. So this needs to be addressed,” said Sukers.
Dhlomo suggested that co-principal investigator of the J&J vaccine, Prof Glenda Grey, appear before parliament to explain exactly what has transpired.
Responding, Phaahla explained the country’s original plan was that by this time SA would be rolling out vaccines which were properly procured, ordered and delivered.
He said the government opted for the J&J vaccine because it was found to be more effective against the new variant discovered in SA.
“The only option which was open to us was to make sure that South Africans who are priority, in terms of our own plans, the only way those front-line workers can get protection from a vaccine proven to be effective, is through the expansion, of what has already been approved by Sahpra,” he said.
Phaahla explained that for J&J and AstraZeneca to conduct human trials in SA, they needed to apply to Sahpra.
“So they have got the approval already. So J&J, similarly to AstraZeneca, had already been approved for the human trials ... So this is the avenue we have available and all that needs to be done is to approach Sahpra and ask them to approve that we expand what you have already approved.
“Now the only way we can expand that protection is to expand in the form of what you have already approved, which is the research or the study.”