'People’s lives are on the line': Seven reactions to SA's vaccine 'moemish'

09 February 2021 - 07:30
The AstraZeneca vaccine is not particularly effective against mild to moderate disease caused by the dominant Covid-19 variant.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is not particularly effective against mild to moderate disease caused by the dominant Covid-19 variant.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The EFF is among parties that have reacted to the news that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not particularly effective against mild to moderate disease caused by the dominant Covid-19 variant.

On Sunday, the department of health confirmed that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against the symptoms from the new Covid-19 variant, 501Y.V2 or B. 1.351.

The batch of 1 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII) arrived in SA last week and it is set to expire in April.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said the results of the vaccine's efficacy were discovered after a small clinical trial.

He said the vaccine rollout would be temporarily halted until scientists figure out what approach SA will use to effectively deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The first phase of the vaccine rollout would see health-care workers getting the jab first.

“I’ve directed that our scientists must, quickly, sit together and figure out what approach we are going to use to effectively deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Mkhize.

“It must be clear when that could be done, what conditions need to be fulfilled, what we need to do about all of this. That is the assignment that is given to our scientists. They'll figure it out.

“So it's a temporary issue that we have to hold on to AstraZeneca. It is temporary until we figure out these issues [and] what are the next steps supposed to be, then we bring it back.”

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“This will lead to mass suffering and death”

In a statement, the EFF called for more research on the efficacy of vaccines against the 501. V2 variant by all vaccine manufacturers that the government entered into agreements with.

“The failure to efficiently procure vaccines with adequate efficacy, in time and properly administer them to the whole population will lead to mass suffering and death,” said the party.

“This can no longer be blamed on the pandemic: the mass suffering and death must be placed squarely in the hands of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Why should people die when there are scientifically proved medical interventions to be made If a government did not acquire available means to save lives?"

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“We may find ourselves in the throes of a third wave”

DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the setback for the vaccine rollout highlighted the need for a comprehensive vaccine plan.

“The news that the rollout will be halted due to the reduced efficacy in our domestic circumstances hamstrings this effort and means that we may find ourselves in the throes of another third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Gwarube

“The admission by the department of health that this expiry date was only discovered upon the arrival of the stock is deeply problematic,” she added.

“We cannot afford mistakes”

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane said the country could not afford mistakes.

He said SA needed robust testing of all available vaccines against all variants in SA with sufficient sample sizes.

“People’s lives are on the line. The economy is on the line. We need leadership that is precise and efficient,” he said.

“Our health-care workers cannot wait that long”

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba called for urgent testing, saying the delay in the vaccine rollout will have a huge impact on health-care workers.

“If we cannot administer 1 million doses between now and April, the expiry date is the least of our worries,” he said.

On social media, many users also reacted to the news. Here are some of the reactions:

“This is very scary”

“This was a huge oversight on our part”

“Being a leader during this pandemic time is hectic”