Home South African Health minister faces court battle over vaccine roll-out

Health minister faces court battle over vaccine roll-out

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AfriForum and Solidarity are opposed to government’s decision to centralise the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize. File picture

HEALTH Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize is facing a legal battle with AfriForum and Solidarity over the decision to centralise the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines from global pharmaceutical companies .

The organisations have indicated that they do not trust the South African government, and argued that private companies had to be allowed to source vaccines on their own.

On January 3, Mkhize announced the government was in intense discussions with various manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines around the world, in a bid to ensure that around 67% of the population was vaccinated in order to develop herd immunity from the deadly virus. By Sunday, confirmed cases stood at 1,214,176 with 32,824 deaths.

Mkhize and deputy director-general Anban Pillay indicated that the private sector would be involved as a stakeholder in the roll-out of the vaccines once they were secured.

But the barring of the private sector from independently acquiring the vaccines has not been well received by the Western Cape provincial government and several organisations.

On Sunday, Solidarity’s head of research, Connie Mulder, blasted the decision by the government as irrational, as it would stall the roll-out of vaccines.

“If the government says they plan to only vaccinate 67% of the population by December, then we may stay with this virus until 2022 to 2023. People want to go back to normality and there is no reason why the private companies are not allowed to procure the vaccines for their employees or NGOs for their communities. We need all hands on deck now,” Mulder said.

Mulder said the government’s latest announcement was more triggered by pressure than by preparedness to expedite the immediate vaccination of the population.

“The government had dropped the ball on this; they are just ensuring that no one is picking it up now,” he said.

Solidarity and AfriForum said their lawyers had been instructed to challenge the decision by the government.

The organisations said in a joint statement they would not allow the government to have a monopoly on deciding who received the vaccine and who did not.

“Allowing the private sector to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines would allow for better efficiency regarding distributing the vaccine to those who want it, to prevent abuse of power by the government, as well as to ensure that government incompetence or corruption does not derail the process,” they said.

Mkhize has so far indicated that around 1.5 million vaccine doses would arrive in the country starting this month until February, with front-line health workers being prioritised.

Another interest group, the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), has threatened the government with a court challenge should the roll-out of the vaccine stall.

Mkhize’s spokesperson Lwazi Manzi had not responded to media enquiries by the time of publication.

Political Bureau

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