“This is while health workers still need to be vaccinated and there is a shortage of vaccines in the country.”
COPE and the EFF in the Northern Cape have slammed politicians for “skipping the queue” after they received Covid-19 vaccinations at Harmony Home in Kimberley on Monday.
Cope national chairperson Pakes Dikgetsi said on Thursday that he had requested clarity on the matter from the MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, as, according to phase 2 of the vaccine roll-out, only persons 60 years and older and those with comorbidities qualify to be vaccinated.
“I enquired about the criteria used as ANC members of the regional executive committee (REC) as well as DA members were seen receiving the vaccinations on Monday,” said Dikgetsi.
He pointed out that politicians who were under the age of 50 and without any apparent comorbidities had essentially “jumped the queue”.
“This practise has not been implemented anywhere else in the country. We can understand if politicians who are over the age of 60 years vaccinate themselves if they wish to encourage the elderly to vaccinate, but we have healthy, young politicians who are being prioritised. This is while health workers still need to be vaccinated and there is a shortage of vaccines in the country. Front-line workers such as police officers, teachers and retail workers should be given priority above politicians.”
Dikgetsi believed that this might set a precedent, where people who did not meet the criteria would also expect to be vaccinated.
“Something doesn’t add up here and this is a subject for serious investigation and action.”
He added that he was also offered the vaccine, but he had declined “out of principle”.
ANC provincial spokesperson Tshepo Louw said that no ANC REC members were vaccinated.
EFF provincial leader Aubrey Baartman indicated that party members of the provincial legislature (MPLs) had decided not to be vaccinated.
“I am the only one that qualifies to register as I am older than 60 years. However, we all decided to wait our turn. It was out of order for MPLs, MECs and even the premier to be vaccinated ahead of health care workers and ordinary, vulnerable citizens. MPLs are not included in the phase 2 roll-out as public servants,” said Baartman.
EFF provincial secretary Shadrack Tlhaole pointed out that it appeared as if the vaccination of MPLs was being “done in the dark”.
“There was no communication as to why MPLs and politicians were given preference to vaccinate. It raises concern because Covid-19 affects everyone. It is painful to see people dying when they do not have medical aid or money to buy a bottle of cough syrup. It is not right to only think of ourselves,” said Tlhaole.
He added that while the EFF recognised the importance of vaccinating, it was also important for politicians to wait their turn.
“We need to protect ourselves and follow Covid-19 regulations in the meantime. At the same time, front-line workers who work with patients on a daily basis and vulnerable groups are being deprived of protection.”
DA provincial leader Harold McGluwa said that since the start of the roll-out of phase 2 of the vaccination programme on Monday, the DA in the Northern Cape conducted oversight inspections at vaccination sites in the Province in order to monitor the readiness of the Health Department to administer vaccines.
“Subsequently, all Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) from all political parties, received an invitation from the Health Department to get vaccinated, as we are also considered to be front-line workers, given our constitutionally mandated oversight responsibilities,” said McGluwa.
He added that party members had been vaccinated in order to create awareness amongst the public about the vaccine roll-out.
“As MPLs, not as members of any specific political party, some of us accepted this invitation to get vaccinated, in the hopes that it would help create awareness about the vaccination roll-out and serve to encourage others to also get vaccinated, as well as combat hesitancy of citizens who remain sceptical of receiving the vaccines.
“The DA will continue to monitor the roll-out of phase 2 and we hope that the programme is sped up to ensure that many more people get vaccinated, as quickly as possible, to assist the country to put up an extra defence against this devastating virus.”
Freedom Front Plus MPL Danie Coetzee said that party members had accepted the invitation to be vaccinated on Monday.
“It is necessary to protect ourselves and others as a safety measure and ensure herd immunity as quickly as possible.”
The spokesperson for the Department of Health, Lebogang Majaha, added that the vaccination of leaders in the Province had helped to reduce “vaccine hesitancy” and positively contributed towards an increase in the number of people over the age of 60 who registered on the Electronic Vaccination Data System.
“As a department, we have included members of provincial legislature, cultural leaders, church leaders from different denominations and all those who have good standing in society in order to decrease vaccine hesitancy,” said Majaha.
“It is not in any case to do with the so-called ‘jump the queue’ but is more focused on a very positive message that we want to convey to members of the general public.”
He indicated that MPLs were provincial public representatives who worked with different people from all walks of life and served as leaders in society.
“As the department, we thank these leaders for their participation and public support, and for agreeing to be ambassadors in mobilising society to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified vaccine hesitancy as a leading global health threat. Rejection of the Covid-19 vaccine lessens the probability of herd immunity and could extend the pandemic.”
Majaha went on to say that it was concerning that health and social care workers, including doctors and nurses, as well as those who deliver indirect care and services (aides, helpers, laboratory technicians, and even medical waste handlers), were hesitant to take the vaccine.
“Not only are health and social care workers at increased risk of contracting and transmitting the disease, but they also have a potentially powerful influence on public vaccination decisions.”
He added that the department was constantly looking for innovative ways to communicate information.
“Targeted messaging to health and social care workers and over-60s, and using accurate messages delivered by trusted leaders, can increase the uptake.
“With the launch of phase 2 of the vaccination programme on May 17, Covid-19 vaccines will progressively be offered to all unvaccinated health and social care workers, the elderly, those living with comorbidities, people in congregate settings and essential workers.
“For this reason, under phase 2, it was felt that opening up the vaccination process to these categories will be an important and innovative tool to reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase the uptake,” Majaha concluded.