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Pressure mounts on Treasury to avail overtime money for weekend vaccinations

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The Department of Health has blamed a lack of funds for overtime for not conducting vaccinations on weekends, with less than 1% of South Africans having been fully vaccinated.

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Pressure is is mounting on the National Treasury to avail funds to pay for the overtime of staff administering the Covid-19 vaccinations on weekends.

The Department of Health has blamed a lack of funds for overtime for not conducting vaccinations on weekends.

This was despite indications showing that over 2.2 million doses had been administered and over 479 768 people had been fully vaccinated in the country.

On Thursday, the DA added its voice in the calls that vaccination should take place throughout the week.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said 15 months into the pandemic, less than 1% of South Africans have been fully vaccinated.

“That’s fewer than 500 000 people out of a population of 60 million who are fully protected. A further 2.7% have received a first dose and await a second,” Steenhuisen said.

“We are lagging far behind not just our upper-middle-income peer countries but also lower-middle income and many poor countries, including Zimbabwe and Namibia.”

Steenhuisen charged that the government should have planned the vaccine roll-out programme months in advance of delivery.

“We should be vaccinating at full speed seven days a week. The private sector and competent provinces should have been allowed to procure their own vaccines.”

He accused the government of failing to release a budget for a seven-day per week programme.

His colleague, Geordin Hill-Lewis, the party’s finance spokesperson, said the DA was calling on the National Treasury to release the funds needed to pay for staff overtime so that vaccinations could be done over weekends.

“It is simply not true that there are no funds to pay staff over weekends, as Department of Health officials have argued,” Hill-Lewis said.

He also said government should be pulling out all of the stops to roll out vaccines.

“It is totally unacceptable to stop (or drastically slow down) vaccinations over weekends, when the funds are available to prevent these delays.”

Hill-Lewis noted that the National Treasury had allocated R6 billion this year to fund the vaccine roll-out and R9bn was budgeted in the contingency reserve for vaccine roll-out if necessary.

“Now is the time to ensure this budgeted money is made available to provincial departments to speed up the rollout.”

However, the Health Department’s deputy director-general, Anban Pillay, told one of the broadcasters that they have laid out to provinces the flow of vaccines that were coming into the country.

“Clearly, if they continue at the current pace, they will fall behind because we will have more vaccines arriving,” Pillay said.

“We are going to have to make some sacrifices to make sure that people are working on weekends and we have to find the money for overtime,” he added.

Political Bureau