IRR welcomes Covid-19 vaccine progress following legal letter to Minister, but important issues remain - IRR

7 January 2021 - The IRR is pleased by the progress made with regards to the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines for South Africans in the 72 hours since the delivery by legal representatives of the Institute of an urgent letter to the Minister of Health.

Since the letter, actionable steps have been announced to bring forward the initial availability of vaccines – initially stated to be towards the end of the second quarter. Pressure on government has now laid the groundwork for the availability of 1 million vaccinations to health workers by the end of this month.

The IRR further welcomes apparent progress in negotiations between he South African government and pharmaceutical manufacturers AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.

However, two significant concerns remain for the IRR:

Firstly, it still seems to be the position of the government that private sector entities will be barred from participation in the rollout of vaccines to South Africans. Many private sector entities have already shown themselves to be willing and able to shoulder much of the burden in terms of South Africa’s health response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The decision by government to disallow private sector participation with regards to vaccines risks unnecessary delays in vaccines reaching South Africans desperate to return to economic productivity and further runs the risk of having the poorest taxpayers pay for the vaccinations of wealthier South Africans who have the means to obtain via the private sector the necessary medical options and treatment.

Secondly, it is an unnecessary risk to lives and livelihoods to exclude the participation of private sector entities in the rollout of vaccines, thereby delaying the process of medically protecting South Africans from Covid-19. The government’s newly stated target of having the majority of South Africans receive vaccinations by the end of the year is not adequate to the urgency of allowing the return of normality for many millions who’ve endured immense hardship as result of South Africa’s Covid-19 situation.

Says Hermann Pretorius, IRR Head of Strategic Initiatives: “Given the progress achieved over the last 72 hours and communications received from the Minister of Health and government regarding negotiations with pharmaceutical firms, the IRR will now suspend legal actions in this regard. The IRR will however remain engaged with progress relating to Covid-19 vaccine availability and looks forward to further practical and actionable announcements by the government during the coming week. Should progress stall, the IRR will consider legal action to ensure that the health of South Africans is not compromised by government.”

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