Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

The government’s monopoly on the buying and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines is to be challenged in court.

Union Solidarity and NGO AfriForum have instructed their legal team to prepare a case for this challenge and have been assured by their advocates that there are solid legal grounds for such a case.

“The two organisations want to ensure that those who seek to get the vaccine are not obstructed from doing so by government mismanagement or corruption,” they said in a statement.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has made it clear that all vaccines will be acquired and distributed by the national government, which has already secured 1.5-million doses of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine for health workers from the Serum Institute of India. One-million doses are due to arrive in January and a further 500,000 in February.

The government has also signed up to get vaccines under the Covax global facility, which will secure vaccines for middle- and low-income countries.

There has been mounting public concern — including by high-profile health professionals — about the delay by the government in securing a supply of vaccines when many other countries have already started rolling out their vaccination programmes.

Ernst van Zyl, AfriForum campaign officer for strategy and content, said that AfriForum’s stance was that the government cannot have a monopoly on deciding who receives the vaccine.

“Allowing the private sector to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines would allow for better efficiency regarding distributing the vaccine to those who want it, to prevent abuse of power by the government, as well as to ensure that government incompetence or corruption does not derail the process,” he said.

“Throughout the lockdown period, the government has proven that when it has a monopoly on Covid-19-related policies and tasks, corruption and inefficiency tend to be rampant. AfriForum therefore seeks to prevent the potential abuse of government power as it relates to the buying and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, by fighting to allow the private sector to assist in this endeavour.”

Solidarity Research Institute head Connie Mulder added that SA could not allow the nationalisation of vaccines. “The state has a history of failures and SA cannot afford another failure during this crisis.”

ensorl@businesslive.co.za

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