South Africa: Cosatu - SA's Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Strategy Is Unconvincing

Infographic detailing the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines (file photo).
press release

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted what was presented by Minister Zweli Mkhize as the country's COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Strategy. From what Minister Zweli Mkhize presented to the nation, the federation remains unconvinced.

A solid and convincing vaccine acquisition and distribution strategy should have been developed earlier and by now, the government should be starting the rollout process and not making vague commitments.

The to-do list that includes phone calls, bilaterals, research, authorisation that the minister is talking about should have been done four months ago, in September last year, when there were signs already that a vaccine was probable in the first quarter of 2021.

What the nation witnessed in Minister of Health's incomprehensible briefing was of a leadership that has been caught napping in the face of a deadly pandemic ravaging the country.

What the minister presented is bunk and the country should not accept it. South Africans are familiar with the egregious policy failures with deadly consequences as we saw with the mismanagement of the Aids pandemic.

It is clear that we are dealing with colossal mismanagement of the vaccine procurement process and frontline workers, the elderly and those with co-morbidities will pay with their lives.

The presentation of this so-called COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Strategy was only a public relations exercise at a time when the nation expects action.

This is hiding the fact that there are 40 countries that have already begun immunising their people, some since December and some are South Africa's peers in the middle-income bracket.

The government is only telling us about a plan to cover between 3% and 10% by June. That does not even include the logistics of conducting the actual vaccinations which could take us to August.

What we need is an actual plan which provides for the procurement of sufficient vaccines to ensure all health and other frontline workers are immunised by February, and the elderly and those with co-morbidities by March. Every day, we are losing on average 400 people and the time for platitudes is over.

It is not enough for government to pin its hopes of access to an early vaccine on the possible success of ongoing bilateral negotiations, something that should have been done long ago.

If South Africans are expected to continue to sympathise and cooperate with government's lockdowns, they have every right to demand more efficiency and better performance from their leaders and senior bureaucrats and not this ineptitude and unintelligibility.

This explains why the Minister and the Department of Health ran away from engaging Organised Business and Labour when they were invited to present the vaccine plan this week at NEDLAC. The government needs to ask for help if it cannot manage the task on its own. It will find willing partners in Labour and Business.

Failure to roll out vaccines early, whilst other countries move with speed will see those countries emerge from the pandemic and open up their economies, while isolating South Africa by closing their borders to travel and trade with South Africa. This will be a fatal blow to our fragile economy.

The health system is also imploding with frontline workers getting infected and dying at an alarming rate. The nation simply cannot afford this incompetence a day longer, not at the cost of thousands of workers' lives.

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