Ramaphosa seeks buy-in from religious leaders for Covid-19 vaccine roll out

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President Cyril Ramaphosa leads a candle lighting ceremony at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in honour of frontline healthcare workers and those who died of Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa leads a candle lighting ceremony at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in honour of frontline healthcare workers and those who died of Covid-19.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has had consultative meetings with interfaith leaders on the rollout of a vaccine.
  • Government has called on interfaith leaders for support in the process.
  • This as government prepares to rollout vaccines as early as February.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is working in earnest to secure the buy-in of interfaith and religious leaders in government's rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The President met with religious leaders on Sunday night following a meeting of the Presidential Coordinating Council and Cabinet. 

Speaking to News24, Mary Kluk, President of the South African Board of Jewish Deputies, said their meeting with government focused largely on the vaccine. Other topics on the agenda were the uncertainty around schools reopening, as well as the alarming Covid-19 figures owing to the new variant. 

"That was a big part of the conversation about how faith based leaders can help report appropriate and reliable information regarding the safety of the vaccine. There is a general understanding that faith based leaders will play an important role in the rollout of the vaccine.

READ | Ramaphosa expected to extend current lockdown restrictions, continue clampdown on alcohol

"(Health Minister Zweli) Mkhize who was part of government's delegation in the meeting said he is planning a meeting [with us] to discuss how faith based communities can play a role. There is going to be collaboration with [the] faith based community on how to support the rollout and help people through their anxiety and what the real facts are," she said. 

In a series of tweets, the Office of the President said government emphasised the need for clear communication of facts. It said all the faith leaders welcomed the consultation and expressed appreciation for the efforts of government and the role of religious leaders to continue to mobilise communities to follow all the health protocols.

"We value the inputs of religious leaders who lead congregations with appreciation and humility. We all have a huge responsibility to work together in communicating facts on vaccines and encouraging good practices to ensure that we overcome this devastating pandemic," the tweet reads.

READ | Covid-19: Approval of Russian, Chinese vaccines in SA 'unlikely', say top experts

News24 previously reported that Mkhize had confirmed that South Africa would be receiving 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. 

News24 understands an application for approval of the vaccine, which has been approved in numerous other countries for use, was filed last Monday.

Discussions around the acquisition of a vaccine have dominated ANC and alliance political meetings in the past few days, with some leaders calling for the country to have bilateral meetings on procuring vaccines.

Pressure from political allies of the ANC has led to the government announcing that health officials have been in discussions with Russia and China regarding doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, or two others made by China's Sinovac and Sinopharm.

Last week, ANC Gauteng Secretary Jacob Khawe and Cosatu President Zingiswa Losi expressed dissenting views around the rollout of the vaccine. Their remarks came as individuals, as well as the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union, said its health workers did not want to be among the first to be injected with the vaccine.

In his ANC January 8 birthday statement Ramaphosa said: "We need to actively counter the spread of disinformation relating to Covid-19 and unfounded conspiracy theories about the virus, its treatment and the development of vaccines."

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