Activists are calling for a people’s vaccine

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  • Civil society wants the SA government to ensure equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine 
  • Activists are running a campaign called the People’s Vaccine Campaign
  • The AU has managed to sure 270 million doses for the continent

The C19 People’s Coalition is calling on the South African government for urgent mobilisation and equitable vaccine access and allocation. The coalition’s call for a People’s Vaccine Campaign has been endorsed by over 500 organisations.

The call for a people’s vaccine

The activists say that South Africa's unequal healthcare system is one of the driving forces for this campaign. They say that the majority of South Africa's people, who are mainly black and poor, should not be denied access to the vaccine, with a collaborative effort from government and manufacturers to ensure that delivery of the vaccine is free from predatory and profiteering practices.

The group of organisations also highlight that women carry the greater burden of health and care in society, and also suffer disproportionately from illness, poverty and violence.

Rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine

The movement says that women are at risk with the delay of the rollout, making them vulnerable to exposure to the virus while carrying the burden of responsibility for caring for their family in the event of infection and death.

Organizations also note that austerity measures could be a barrier in ensuring that there is equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine. In February 2020, the public health budget was cut by R3.9 billion in real terms.

The coalition is also calling for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property. The South African and Indian governments put forward a proposal to waive these agreements that are a barrier to accessing the vaccine in low- and middle-income countries.

The activists also call on vaccine nationalism and to stop xenophobia in the rollout of the vaccine. They point out that wealthy nations such as Canada and the USA have pre-ordered large numbers of vaccine doses which exceed the need of their own populations, while some countries have excluded  migrants and asylum seekers from their vaccine strategies.

As South Africa gears up for its vaccine rollout, the coalition calls on the government to ensure that Community Healthcare Workers be given immediate access to the vaccine and have guaranteed job security.

The activists also demand that the government deliver clear messaging on the vaccine. This is critical with the rise of misinformation, science denialism, anti-vaxxer sentiments and vaccine hesitancy. They warn that scepticism by the government, the pharmaceutical industry and the private health sector has created fertile ground for opportunism and fear-mongering. 

Vaccine options

Currently, South Africa has managed to procure the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from the Serum Institute of India for healthcare workers. The government will also procure a vaccine through the COVAX facility for 10% of the population. 

Government has also secured vaccines with Johnson & Johnson, some of which will be locally produced. The results of the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial will be released in a few days.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) has managed to secure 270 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines. The suppliers will be Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. This was part of AU chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team's efforts to ensure that the continent is not left behind.

“I wish to commend the members of the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, Afreximbank, Africa CDC and all those who have been working tirelessly to secure these vaccines for the people of Africa. There is a long road ahead, but as Africa we are now seeing progress in our shared effort to defeat this disease,” says Ramaphosa.

READ| Covid-19 reinfection: How common is it?

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