Covid-19: DA to take legal action to make govt's Covid-19 vaccine plans public

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  • The DA has set out its plans to force government to release its plans to source a Covid-19 vaccine for the country.
  • The DA has written to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, with direct questions on South Africa’s participation in the vaccine programme.
  • An application to health minister Zweli Mkhize will also be submitted in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to request all relevant information around a detailed vaccine plan.

Whether the government likes it or not, the DA will push for South Africa's Covid-19 vaccine plans to be made public.

This is according to the party’s spokesperson on health Siviwe Gwarube who, together with DA leader John Steenhuisen, on Friday announced plans to force government to release its plans on sourcing a Covid-19 vaccine for the country.

The DA’s steps comes after News24 reported earlier this month that South Africa is yet to make an estimated R500 million payment to an international initiative to secure access to Covid-19 vaccines for lower income countries.

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According to a report by Bloomberg, South Africa missed a December 15 deadline to make a deposit that would secure vaccines.

Fin24 reported that National Treasury and the Health Department remained tightlipped following the news of the missed deadline.

"We are not commenting on the vaccine as yet. The minister will address the media at an appropriate time. The country is still on track and there is nothing that suggests we are at risk with regards to securing the vaccine," said Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja on Thursday.

Gwarube said:

“Executive action cannot simply be without any consequences. Whether they like it or not, or whether it is a culture they accept or not… the reality is that they are obligated to share information and that’s why you have Constitutional provisions. It is important that an executive shares its actions, its justifications for the actions it takes."

Steenhuisen said while countries are scrambling to acquire the vaccine, South Africa has not done the same.

"Securing the vaccine for South Africa as soon as possible should be the government’s number one priority right now. However, South Africa has missed the deadline for a deposit on the Covax Vaccine Facility, not once, but twice. It is unacceptable that government’s tardiness is jeopardising our access to the vaccine,” he said.

Steenhuisen said when questions have been asked in Parliament to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, details have been sketchy.

“We have simply been told that government is dealing with this matter. It is clear, given the news of another missed deadline, that the government has not been dealing with this matter and that both President Ramaphosa and Minister Mboweni, have both seemingly misled the nation about this process,” Steenhuisen said.

He said "mere days" ago Ramaphosa, in an address to the nation, said the country will receive initial vaccines to cover approximately 10% of the population, "... in the early part of next year.

“He further stated that government had 'concluded all the necessary processes to ensure its participation in the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility,” Steenhuisen said.

Steenhuisen claimed Mboweni has also seemingly misled Parliament on this issue.

He will be requesting that Parliament’s Ethics Committee urgently investigate these apparent mistruths by the President and his Cabinet, “... which have life-threatening effects on our nation.”

The DA’s spokesperson on finance Geordin Hill-Lewis has written to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), with direct questions on South Africa’s participation in the vaccine programme.

GAVI coordinates the Covax funding facility for poor and middle-income countries.

“Government has been scanty with the details of where we are in this process. Instead, we have been almost singularly focused on short-term strategies premised entirely on restrictions and a lockdown model,” Hill-Lewis said.

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