Mkhize 'caught sleeping in the face of a deadly pandemic', says Cosatu on vaccine rollout

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  • Government says the Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be delivered in the first quarter of the year.
  • Vaccination is expected to take place in three phases, with healthcare workers in the first phase.
  • Trade union Cosatu says it is not convinced by the health department's rollout plan.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has accused Health Minister Zweli Mkhize of "napping in the face of a deadly pandemic" and says it is not convinced by government's proposed Covid-19 vaccine rollout strategy.

In a statement following Mkhize's briefing on the vaccine rollout on Sunday, Cosatu said a convincing vaccine acquisition and distribution strategy should have been developed as early as September.

"The to-do list, that includes phone calls, bilaterals, research, authorisation, that the minister is talking about, should have been done four months ago, in September last year, when there were signs already that a vaccine was probable in the first quarter of 2021.

"What the nation witnessed in the Minister of Health's incomprehensible briefing was of a leadership that has been caught napping in the face of a deadly pandemic ravaging the country," Cosatu said.

In Mkhize's briefing on Sunday, he announced that at least 67% of the South African population will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to ensure herd immunity.

READ | Covid-19: What you need to know about SA's vaccination plan

The vaccine is expected to be rolled out in three phases, with the 1.25 million healthcare workers in the country having first access.

The second phase will see essential workers and those living in congregate spaces, such as care centres and prisons, offered the vaccine. Those classed as essential workers include miners, teachers and police officers. The second phase, which will require roughly 16 million doses, will also include those aged 60 and older as well as those with comorbidities.

The third phase will see the vaccine being made available to an additional 40 million people.

Mkhize said the Covax agreement would see enough vaccines to cover 10% of the population delivered by the second quarter of 2021. He added that enough doses to cover the remaining 57% of the population would have to be sourced through bilateral agreements.

Cosatu called Mkhize's announcement a publicity stunt and said South Africans should reject it.

"What the minister presented is bunk and the country should not accept it. South Africans are familiar with the egregious policy failures with deadly consequences as we saw with the mismanagement of the Aids pandemic," Cosatu said.

 

"It is clear that we are dealing with colossal mismanagement of the vaccine procurement process and frontline workers, the elderly and those with comorbidities will pay with their lives. This is hiding the fact that there are 40 countries that have already begun immunising their people, some since December and some are South Africa's peers in the middle-income bracket," the trade union federation added.

Meanwhile, government is currently in discussion with several pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

According to deputy director-general of health Dr Anban Pillay, who spoke at the briefing, these discussions could result in a vaccine being delivered in the first quarter of the year.


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