South Africa will soon receive its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute in India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. President Cyril Ramaphosa is calling on all South Africans to participate in the vaccine campaign and says government will strive for greater transparency throughout the process.
The introduction of the vaccines will “signal the start of a mass vaccination campaign that will be the most ambitious and extensive in our country’s history. It will reach all parts of the country and will be phased to ensure that those most in need are prioritised,” wrote Ramaphosa in his weekly letter.
The first vaccines to arrive will be provided to health care workers, who will be targeted in the first phase. The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with comorbidities. The third phase will include other adults in the population.
A comprehensive rollout strategy and an accompanying logistical framework will be implemented in partnership with the private sector, civil society, traditional leadership, the religious sector and others.
“It is vital that this is a society-wide campaign, in which everyone is involved and no-one is left behind,” wrote Ramaphosa.
“All of us need to be part of this national effort and not allow the spread of rumours, fear and mistrust. False information and fake news can and does put lives at risk. We all need to work together to build confidence in the vaccine, to demonstrate its effectiveness and its safety – and to emphasise its vital importance in overcoming this deadly disease.”
He also said government will focus on greater transparency on their vaccine efforts.
“There has been concern that government has not been sufficiently transparent about these efforts. However, as we did with the announcement on the Serum Institute, the details of deals with manufacturers will be released as and when negotiations are concluded and we are released from the communications terms of the non-disclosure agreements. This is commonplace in such circumstances, and most governments have had to comply with similar restrictions.
“We recognise that it is important that the public must be kept abreast of developments on vaccine acquisition at all times. And government must be held to account for all the decisions it makes in this regard. Freedom of speech and open public debate are cornerstones of our democracy, as is the media’s right to scrutinise and interrogate all government’s policies and decisions,” he writes.
He added that when it comes to fighting a deadly pandemic like this, honesty and trust are just as valuable as any vaccine.
Picture: twitter / The Presidency