It has been revealed by the Department of Health that vaccine supply will not be a problem for the next two months; instead, vaccine hesitancy has become the greater challenge. That is why the DA is calling on the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla to immediately facilitate the opening of registration and rollout for those over the age 18.
The Minister needs to understand that critical decisions like this during a pandemic cannot be made by committee; therefore, the insistence that he needs to consult with the leadership of the cabinet is a luxury we cannot afford.
Surely, the dwindling numbers of those vaccinated daily is enough reason to open up the system to all adults who wish to take the vaccine. Those who are most at risk should continue to be prioritized. However, it makes no sense whatsoever to have vaccine sites standing empty when the audacious task of reaching 40 million South Africans in order to achieve community immunity is still a distant milestone.
In addition to this, the department needs to find the funds it requires to bolster its communication and community outreach efforts. The admission by the Department over the weekend that they do not have the budget to communicate effectively and aggressively about the vaccine rollout is most concerning. It further illustrates how corruption and the theft of public money, directly affects the people of this country. R150 million was looted when it was meant to provide a communication plan. Now the department sits with no budget to perform this critical function while the uptake of the vaccines is plummeting.
Urgent reprioritization of funds should now be made in order to remedy the crisis that the Department finds itself in. Furthermore, there should be a greater emphasis placed on public/ private partnerships in order to target – on mass – employees in certain industries. It is absolutely crucial to reach people where they are. Many people are not able to take time off work to go get their vaccines at certain sites.
Vaccination is the only way South Africa can begin to recover from the devastation this pandemic has caused and save lives. We cannot afford to waste one more day with our dismal rollout. Those over 18 should access the vaccine should they wish and the department must jack up its communication and community outreach strategy.