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SA urged to develop own vaccine and speed up roll-out

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The South African government has been blamed for failing to develop its own vaccine and for a slow vaccination roll-out

An employee works on a production line at a facility manufacturing the drug levilimab, which is undergoing clinical trials in the treatment of complications among Covid-19 patients, at the production facility of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

THE South African government has been blamed for failing to develop its own vaccine and for a slow vaccination roll-out.

Up until Sunday, the government had vaccinated just over 2 million people which is a far cry from the targeted 40 million to reach herd immunity.

Professor Sphamandla Zondi, a political scientist at the University of Johannesburg who is also a member of the Institute for Global Dialogue, said the country must be ashamed that with such resources it was failing to speed up the vaccination of its own people and develop its own vaccine.

Zondi said this undermined the country’s claim of being one of the leading states in Africa and a key BRICS member. He said the failure by the country to meet its own vaccination targets was disappointing and embarrassing on many fronts.

“The most important thing is that it was hoped that vaccinating large numbers of vulnerable people would give us something close to a herd immunity at least during the ruthless third wave of Covid-19 that has set upon us already. This calls into question our claims to be a developmental state as such states are efficient and skilled in matters of public good,” said Zondi.

He said what was needed was for the government and its social partners to at least do the very thing they promised – vaccinate people at a rate of 200 000 persons a week.

He said that would ensure that vaccines received did not expire in industrial fridges, but were injected into the arms of the elderly and front-line workers without fail.

He said the country had not built the state’s capacities that the National Development Plan required since 2013 and now the country was suffering the consequence of this failure almost a decade later.

Zondi said the government needed to do the basic things all governments were meant to do – use the budget wisely, implement fully what had been decided and monitor effectively every action taken.

Zondi suggested there must be consequence management for failure to meet targets.

“It is just strange that a country with relatively well-funded science establishments, a century of industrial experience and leading scientists has not manufactured any vaccine,” said Zondi.

His sentiments were echoed by another global political analyst, Dr Ralph Mathekga, who said that with just 3% of people vaccinated, the country should be ashamed.

He urged the government to work with community-based organisations and traditional leadership to speed up vaccination programmes.

Mathekga said the strategy had worked well for the Limpopo government which had already vaccinated 6% of its population.

“Persistent corruption was also hindering government vaccination programmes,” Mathekga said.

On the other hand, Mathekga said there were genuine problems like new variants that had hit the country, which forced it to abandon the AstraZeneca vaccine due to its efficacy issues.

South Africa has also temporarily halted Johnson & Johnson vaccines after contamination problems.

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