Lobby group AfriForum says government has admitted that there are no legal restrictions to prevent the private sector from purchasing COVID-19 vaccines.

The group and trade union Solidarity have called on government to allow the private sector to purchase and distribute vaccines to combat the coronavirus. They recently approached the High Court to force government to give clarity on the legality of the state’s centralisation of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The lobby group’s action comes after the two organisations threatened legal action against the government. They wanted the court to declare any legal exclusion of the private sector regarding the purchase of vaccines, unconstitutional. They say the government lacks the capability to handle the vaccine rollout alone. Trade union Solidarity’s Dirk Hermann has told the media in Pretoria that the private sector must be involved.

“The private sector must be involved in the full vaccine value chain, government doesn’t and to ensure that we went to court the nationalisation of the vaccine process. This was done in the wake of several statements whereby among others the minister of health that this will be managed by the central government alone.”

Government has recently acknowledged that it was illegal to monopolize the procurement and roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines. This now allows private medical businesses to procure and distribute the vaccines.

AfriForum’s CEO, Kallie Kriel, says limiting the handling of the vaccines to government only, is not a good idea and unconstitutional.

“Not the idea for us AfriForum and Solidarity but also for men and women in the streets that has the human rights to have access to good health care. If the private sector can play a role to provide good health care why should we be against that. We should not allow the idea of centralisation where the lives of normal people are compromised. Life is important.”

The groups say government cannot be trusted in handling the vaccine rollout alone, given the level of corruption it has displayed over time.

This week, government announced that more than 60 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated since the rollout began more than a week ago. Over 50 000 people have succumbed to the virus since the outbreak of the pandemic a year ago.

Analysing the COVID-19 inoculation rollout in SA and globally: