Sunday, 03 January 2021 13:36

Staff Reporter.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on government to expedite access to a Covid-19 vaccine.

DA urges government to put the people first and to urgently secure a bi-lateral deal to expedite the arrival of the vaccine to our shores. They argue that waiting for the second quarter next year is not good enough, and even then, the number of initial vaccines on offer will only cover 10% of the population.

Despite being part of the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme, DA says Colombia has realised the obvious delays and shortcomings of this initiative and thus opted for a bi-lateral approach to swiftly secure the vaccine for its citizens.

Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University, Shabir Madhi, recently stated: "Being involved in the clinical development of the vaccines should have placed us in an advantageous position to gain early access. Seemingly we have not exploited this opportunity. We’re in a difficult position in terms of being able to get vaccines within the course of 2021".

The DA proposes the following:

  1. That government urgently begins bi-lateral negotiations, as many other countries have done, with approved vaccine suppliers in order to gain expedited access to a vaccine for South Africans. If only to secure enough, at this stage, for frontline healthcare workers, teachers and frontline responders, and the most vulnerable members of society, including older persons. The steps taken in this regard must be shared with the National Assembly to ensure sufficient oversight and accountability;
  2. That the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority is able to complete their required vaccine approval as efficiently as possible;
  3. That government determine, in detail, how many doses of the vaccine are necessary to inoculate the entire population and make the necessary financial provisions for this procurement. According to our estimates, at $10,22 per vaccine, it would cost R9,5 billion to cover 50% of the population. Thus, National Treasury must urgently reappropriate approximately R20 billion to ensure that the entire nation can be vaccinated against Covid-19;
  4. That government provide a definite timeline in relation to the COVAX participation, the date the vaccines will be here, how many doses will be arriving and how they are to be allocated;
  5. That government begin this week to develop a roll-out strategy to, as quickly as possible administer the vaccine to citizens who require it, and identify which facilities will be used to store and administer the vaccine; and
  6. Ensure that the procurement of syringes, needles, swabs, fridges, and other associated ancillary requirements for the administering of the vaccine is undertaken. This must be conducted with transparency and accountability to prevent the corruption witnessed in the first round of PPE procurement.

In addition to this, government must begin a process of identifying the worst-affected industries from lockdown to establish targeted relief programmes so that strategic and important sectors of our economy can be protected and jobs retained. Blanket bans, closures, and restrictions cannot be enforced unless all relevant stakeholders are consulted and the necessary relief is provided during this time, said DA.

The official opposition believes a vaccine is now the only solution, and the only alternative to lockdown which is no longer viable or sustainable means to curb the spread of the virus in our country. It is the only path for us to return to some form of normality. The new year has to bring new resolve to combat Covid-19. We need to save the lives of the citizens and give our economy a fighting chance to begin the long road to some form of recovery.