DA MP Siviwe Gwarube on Tuesday called for a parliamentary ad hoc committee that will oversee the work of the interministerial committee on Covid-19 vaccines.
Speaking during a debate in the National Assembly on the country’s vaccination programme, Gwarube said South Africa had been dragging its feet acquiring lifesaving vaccines from global vaccine manufacturers.
Gwarube said the roll-out of vaccines had been fraught with challenges and the government only started procuring the jabs late last year.
“Pointing this out is not just being oppositional or negative, but it’s simply demanding more from our government,” Gwarube said.
“And when the opposition started to ring the alarm about the vaccine roll-out plan late last year, we were told all is under control. Except it wasn’t. It was only months later that other countries similar to ours that have the same socioeconomic as ours started to roll out their vaccine plans, that we started to scrabble for scraps on the international table.”
Gwarube, the spokesperson for the DA on health matters, said countries that have the same socioeconomic conditions as SA were vaccinating millions of their citizens, while SA was yet to reach 50 000 people.
She said some of the challenges involving the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine were not under the government’s control while others were its own making.
The excuse by the government that no codified plan could be produced because of sensitive negotiations with vaccine manufacturers was unacceptable, Gwarube said.
“It is simply lazy at best. Parliament cannot be treated as an inconvenient stop for the executive as an annoying stakeholder to be pacified. It has to be a centre of excellence. It starts with each and every one of us.”
AstraZeneca vaccine halted
Earlier this month, the Department of Health temporarily halting the roll-out of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to healthcare workers after preliminary data from a clinical trial found it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the 501Y.V2 variant found in South Africa.
The first phase of the country’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout kicked off last week in a trial using the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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 vaccine before it’s administered to the general population.
At the same time, Gwarube said Parliament had failed to hold members of the executive accountable for the vaccine plan.
She said instead MPs chose party lines “over tough decisions that were so desperately needed in the time of crisis”.
“This does not mean undermining sensitive negotiations but an indication of where we are, where we are acquiring the vaccines, what are the doses and what are the expected timelines.”
Gwarube said the true heroes of the pandemic were the health workers who are on the frontline of fighting Covid-19.
“However, this battle is far from over. We are only at a different phase of this pandemic and we are at a crucial time when the government is now expected to acquire and roll out effective vaccines against the 501Y.V2 variant that is dominate in SA,” she said.
Watch the debate below, courtesy of Parliament: