Western Cape sidesteps national government to approach vaccine manufacturers

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency

Premier Alan Winde says it is the ‘moral and ethical responsibility’ of his administration to secure additional jabs for the people of his province.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Wednesday announced that the provincial government would embark on a procurement process to acquire additional Covid-19 vaccines for its residents.

“I can report back today that as part of this process, our department of health has started reaching out to manufacturers, in the first step towards procurement. Our provincial treasury has also taken the necessary steps to budget for this contingency, and further announcements will be made in the budget speech next month,” Winde said.

The premier made the announcement during his state of the province address (Sopa) in Genadendal. He said the provincial procurement was not at odds with the national government, which has been designated as the sole procurer of vaccines in South Africa.

“It also does not mean that we will not work or align closely with them,” he said.

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“As it stands now, the centralised vaccine procurement process has not yet secured enough vaccines to prevent a third wave and to end this pandemic. It is, therefore, the moral and ethical responsibility of this government to ensure it has done everything possible to secure an adequate supply of safe, approved, and effective vaccines for the people of this province.”

Winde’s announcement came as the first phase of the country’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout kicked off in a trial using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (J&J) inoculation.

The Sisonke programme is expected to be rolled out to up to 500,000 healthcare workers in 18 public hospitals across all nine provinces. This is to assess the effectiveness of the J&J vaccine before it’s administered to the general population.

‘Putting all our eggs in one basket’

While the Western Cape’s procurement of vaccines would not be easy, Winde said it was a necessary mitigation measure against the “unquestionable risk of putting all our eggs in one basket”.

“To not do so would be an abdication of our responsibility as a provincial government and my own oath of office. For this province has, under the Constitution of the Republic, a shared competency for health.

“And we will not hesitate to take the lead if it means we can help save lives and jobs in South Africa,” he said.

Winde said the provincial government would not stop working with the national government on the procurement of vaccines. He said his government had shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic that it took the principle of cooperative governance seriously, even more seriously than the national government.

“We are not about to stop now. We will continue to assist the national government wherever we can, and we will ensure that any vaccines secured through centralised or provincial processes are efficiently rolled out in our province,” he said.

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