DA leader John Steenhuisen has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to explain the rationale behind government’s sale of the Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccines that arrived in the country in February.

Over this past long weekend, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that his department has concluded its deal with the African Union to purchase the one million doses of the vaccines. The vaccine was purchased from the Serum Institute in India and its rollout was suspended after the results of a small study showed that the vaccine had limited efficacy against the dominant coronavirus variant that was discovered in the country at the end of 2020.

SA’s vaccination process under spotlight:

Mkhize said the vaccines that expire in April will be sent to 14 African Union countries after an AU vaccine acquisition team found that they have obtained all regulatory approvals, permits and licenses to rollout the vaccines.

Steenhuisen says government is already lagging in its vaccination campaign and the Astrazeneca jabs could be used to vaccinate the elderly and those with co-morbidities in the lead up to the expected third wave of infections in the coming months.

“We are hopelessly missing even our unambitious target of vaccinating one million healthcare workers by the end of March by 75%. The South African government will tell you this is because they have no vaccines. Yet, they sold one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. These vaccines could and should have been administered to high-risk individuals (older people and those with co-morbidities) and to protect hospitals from becoming overrun and our economy from being locked down, when the third wave inevitably arrives. Leading scientists in South Africa and in the World Health Organisation and in the European Medicines Agency all advised that these doses should be administered to high-risk individuals.”

David Mabuza says the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not happening as fast as hoped: