The Mercury

We have wasted a ‘good crisis’


OUR government is fast running out of excuses for not prioritisi­ng the Chinese Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine that the World Health Organizati­on (WHO) has approved. WHO has listed the vaccine for emergency use, paving the way for it to be rolled out globally.

As the country’s largest trading and BRICS partner, it boggles the mind that our government failed to use its strong bilateral relations to secure millions of doses of the Chinese vaccine at a much cheaper rate.

Even President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize have been at pains to explain the logic behind overlookin­g the Chinese and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, often hiding behind the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority processes. Instead they have opted for a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine which is being used as part of the Sisonke trial, and another from Pfizer.

We can learn a thing of two from our neighbouri­ng Zimbabwe, among the first to receive the Chinese vaccine and making progress in inoculatin­g the population.

Our government, under Ramaphosa’s leadership, should hang its head in shame over reports that many South Africans have crossed the border, to be vaccinated in Zimbabwe.

It has become clear that reaching herd immunity by the end of the year, as our government promised, is unlikely. Our vaccine roll-out has been dealt several blows, after the more than 1 million doses of the AstraZenec­a vaccine procured from India could not be used as it was deemed to be not effective against the variant first identified in our country last year.

The J&J vaccine had to be put on hold following reports of blood clot disorders in six of the more than six million Americans who had received it. None of such cases were reported among the nearly 300 000 recipients of the vaccine in South Africa at the time.

We now learn that the variant causing havoc in India has been detected in our country and we have yet to inoculate those identified as high risk.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” Winston Churchill famously said. We have indeed wasted a “good crisis”.

How the municipal elections and political rallies will be held remain the question in everybody’s mind.

It would be most unfortunat­e that the roll-out of vaccines is used to score political points closer to the elections.

No amount of politickin­g is worth the lives of our people. They deserve better.

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