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DA wants Human Rights Commission to investigate ‘criminally’ slow vaccine rollout

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
DA shadow minister of health Siviwe Gwarube described the government's vaccine rollout as a 'process marred by breathtaking tardiness'. Stock photo.
DA shadow minister of health Siviwe Gwarube described the government's vaccine rollout as a 'process marred by breathtaking tardiness'. Stock photo.

The DA wants the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to urgently investigate the government’s vaccine rollout strategy.

DA shadow minister of health Siviwe Gwarube described the slow pace of the vaccine rollout as “criminal”.

Gwarube said South Africans cannot continue hoping the timeline, which keeps being adjusted for the “impossible” delays, will be met because nothing has gone according to the government’s plan to date.

“The process has been marred by breathtaking tardiness,” she said.

The country began its vaccine rollout seven weeks ago with the Johnson & Johnson Sisonke trial, which was meant to overlap with phase 1 of the rollout to cover the target of 1.2 million health-care workers.

To date, just over 269,000 health-care workers have been vaccinated – a fraction of the target. The trial alone was meant to cover 500,000 health-care workers, but has been slow without a single jab administered in the past four days.

Gwarube said while health minister Zweli Mkhize “continuously blames” external and global factors for the throttled supply of the vaccine, SA’s acquisition was slow “as we receive drips and drabs of supply, thus the rollout is pitiful”.

“For the past few months South Africans have been pleaded with to be patient while  misleading words such as ‘secured doses’ have been bandied about to create a false sense of productivity by the government.

“All this is happening while there is a real threat of a third wave of Covid-19 infections exacerbated by the winter season,” she said.

She said the DA would approach the commission to launch an investigation into the entire vaccination process thus far.

“The reality is that the progressive right to health is enshrined in the constitution and the SAHRC is best placed – squarely so – with launching such an investigation and making binding findings.”

Gwarube said the commission has yet to show its constitutionally empowered teeth with any of the human rights violations in the recent past. This is their opportunity to do right by the people of SA, she said.

She said the DA will also continue with its exploration of a legal challenge to this government failure.

“As the official opposition, it is our responsibility to ensure we hold government accountable for the biggest and most important public health response since the dawn of democracy.

“Millions of South Africans who are vulnerable to the coronavirus depend on a functioning government that will do what is necessary to rollout vaccines as soon as possible.

“We are not comforted by the publishing of big numbers of ‘secured’ vaccines when we can hardly get the basics right of targeting health-care workers and vaccinating a fair amount daily.”