Politicians got the Covid-19 jab early to show the public that it is safe, health dept says

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Deputy Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla undergoing screening shortly before recieving the Covid-19 jab at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Tshwane.
Deputy Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla undergoing screening shortly before recieving the Covid-19 jab at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Tshwane.
News24/Alex Mitchley
  • Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla received the Covid-19 vaccination on Wednesday at the Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Tshwane. 
  • He is one of the few political leaders who have already received the jab, including Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and President Cyril Ramaphosa. 
  • Phaahla said the government had debated whether leaders should get the first available doses, or if they should all go to frontline healthcare workers. 

The decision to have certain political leaders receive the Covid-19 vaccine, while healthcare workers were meant to be prioritised, was to deal with misinformation and disinformation and to instill confidence that the jab is safe.

This according to Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla who received the jab during a site visit to the vaccination clinic at the Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Tshwane on Wednesday.

Phaahla said there had been a long debate in the National Coronavirus Command Council on whether political leaders should receive some of the first vaccines available or if they should stand back to ensure that every dose went to healthcare workers.

"There have been two schools of thought. One school of thought was saying when the vaccines become available just give to the health workers and let them be the ones in the front," he added.

READ | Prof Shabir Madhi 'mortified' at decision on AstraZeneca vaccine, says it might expire

"But then, in terms of various feedback [and] research, there was also information coming through to say there are a lot of question marks.

"There [is] a lot of fake news, saying this is very dangerous and therefore there are many people some of them even health workers, some even political leaders who are saying they don't trust this vaccine."

Phaahla was referring to the many unproven conspiracy theories and pseudoscience being peddled about Covid-19 vaccines, which even include fake messaging about a plot to kill off black people.

READ | Covid-19: Ramaphosa, Mkhize get vaccine jabs

Other myths floating around are that the vaccine has location tracking microchips or the mark of Satan.

Based on the need to dispel the disinformation around Covid-19 and show the country the jab is safe, the government decided that some of the leaders should be among the first to receive it.

"So, we debated this and then agreed that we must balance it," he said.

This includes President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize who have already been vaccinated.

READ | Covid-19: Current vaccination is an expanded trial study, says Khumbudzo Ntshavheni

Phaahla added Deputy President David Mabuza, leaders in the health department and MECs would also receive the first of the vaccines.  

"You can be seen to be almost a leader who is not prepared to lead knowing that there is this controversy, knowing that there all these myths and fake news and you simply stay back and saying no, let the health workers [take the vaccine] when you know that there are people who are throwing a lot of doubts.

"If the leader of the country is not leading from the front where are the people going to get confidence that this thing is safe."

Jokingly, he said during the debate, Ramaphosa said he had also seen a message which said politicians should be given the vaccination first because if it is dangerous, it would be fine to lose them rather than to lose the health workers.

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