Initially, the Pfizer vaccine, alongside its counterparts from J&J and Moderna, was approved for emergency use. Picture: Reuters
Initially, the Pfizer vaccine, alongside its counterparts from J&J and Moderna, was approved for emergency use. Picture: Reuters

Anti-vaxxers not sold on Pfizer’s greenlight

By Tshepiso Tshabalala Time of article published Aug 29, 2021

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Johannesburg - One life lost to the Covid-19 pandemic is one too many. And every little step towards saving lives is worthy of recognition. A milestone to note in the fight against the virus this week is the Pfizer vaccine getting full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

Initially, the Pfizer vaccine, alongside its counterparts from J&J and Moderna, was approved for emergency use, which cast doubts on its efficacy as vaccine detractors cited that the doses were in the trial phase. So, does Pfizer getting full approval and a rubber stamp to patent and market the vaccine change anything? Certainly not for scores of anti-vaxxers.

Many people remain doubtful about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines. Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP

“It is just the fear of the unknown, and all sorts of scary stories we read about. Although it is FDA approved, almost everything in this country is falling apart. All of this is overwhelming, and it makes it difficult for one to trust anything or anyone. For now, I will stick to my faith and trust God,” said 45-year-old Sonto Ndala.

Another 27-year-old anti-vaxxer, who asked not to be named, said that she has seen people close to her lose their lives shortly after being vaccinated, which triggered her fears and not trusting the safety of any vaccine at the moment.

According to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), the approval of Pfizer by the FDA does not have any impact on how it regulates the product. The FDA’s approval entails that the vaccine is eligible to be sold in the medical market.

“Sahpra is aware of the USFDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. It does not affect the regulation of this vaccine in South Africa. Sahpra will use reliance on work done by other regulatory authorities it aligns with, such as USFDA,” said Sahpra spokesperson Yuven Gounden.

In addition, Sahpra said all vaccines available to the South African public should be approved by the regulator itself before use, and the local applicant in South Africa is accountable for ensuring that their product's quality, safety and efficacy is ensured and maintained.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaala indicated that 2,2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccines would have arrived in the country by yesterday, adding to the 5,6 million doses that the department received in July as part of the USA government donation through its Covax facility.

While the department is looking forward to administering more jabs, anti-vaxxers have also expressed their concern on social media about the possibility of having their employers terminate their contracts for refusing to vaccinate.

In light of many people's fears about forced vaccinations, Frans Maja of Maja Attorneys said: “There is no law that says you are required to be vaccinated. As it stands, the department of health is simply encouraging people to vaccinate, but it is not a legal requirement. However, employers by law are required to provide employees with a safe workplace. The question then comes as to them introducing mandatory policies for vaccination. Is that them fulfilling their obligation to provide a safe workplace?

"In addition to that, when such a policy has been passed, and they are saying they are passing this policy in order to provide a safe working environment, then the company can maybe, in the policy, indicate that those who have valid reasons not to vaccinate and the company accepts the reasons. Remember, whatever reason provided will still need to be evaluated. If the reason is not making sense, the company will then say employees must comply with the policy as it is mandatory.”

Sunday Independent

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