Home South African Health dept does U-turn on early vaccines for ‘special groups’ after outcry

Health dept does U-turn on early vaccines for ‘special groups’ after outcry


The Heath Department has issued a retraction on the circular which sought to allow “special groups” to apply to be vaccinated ahead of schedule.

File picture: Reuters/Shwe Paw Mya Tin

THE HEALTH Department was on Tuesday pressured to do a complete U-turn on a circular which sought to give politicians and their staff, diplomats and people travelling out of SA for work or school a special dispensation to be vaccinated.

The notice, which was signed by director-general Dr Sandile Buthelezi, had attempted to give ministers and their deputies, MECs, premiers and their staff, as well as people travelling outside the country for work, school and sports, and other special interest groups, the green light to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

This drew ire with the public as calls for the circular to be withdrawn flooded social media on Tuesday morning. The calls reached the department swiftly, which on Tuesday afternoon announced that it had retracted the circular.

“Following the circular on the vaccination of special groups and individuals against Covid-19, there have been numerous comments, queries and submissions that indicate that the circular is unclear in its intentions. The circular is withdrawn in its entirety,” Buthelezi told provincial health heads, district managers, vaccine programme managers, vaccine site managers and vaccinators.

Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Nkhensani-Kubayi also took to social media to say the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on vaccines had not authorised the circular.

“This was not authorised by IMC on a vaccine which is the final decider on the target population. I have consistently maintained that I will vaccinate when my age group population is opened, this the stance by many of my colleagues. The circular has been withdrawn,” she said.

As per the circular, the special interest groups included politicians such as ministers, deputy ministers, premiers, MECs and staff.

The special groups would have also included people who were requested by the Presidency, the health minister and the director-general of health.

Other people who would have been able to proverbially jump the vaccine queue included South African diplomats and their families, people who were set to travel outside the country for business or school and sports people who were due to travel out of the country to represent the country or their clubs.

The intention was also to allow for the vaccination of people who had received a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine outside the country, and would have allowed them to get their second dose in South Africa.


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