'Government is the bottleneck in the vaccine process': Solidarity calls for privatisation of vaccine procurement

12 July 2021 - 06:00
Solidarity has called for the privatisation of vaccine procurement. File photo.
Solidarity has called for the privatisation of vaccine procurement. File photo.

Solidarity believes it is time to improve SA's vaccine rollout by opening up the process beyond government’s current monopoly.

The trade union commissioned the independent research after determining that the death rate due to the coronavirus among its members was 40% higher now than it was this time last year. Also, it said, because vaccination is seen to be a way out of lockdown regulations — something its members were “sick of”.

“If people want to decide on vaccines, these should be available. Reality is that vaccines should have been available long ago. The government’s dealing with the vaccine process simply is a disgrace. SA still is among the worst vaccination countries in the world.

“One of the main reasons for this is that our ineffective government has been centralising the process. In the SA circumstances this cannot work. Solidarity and AfriForum are fighting in court against the nationalisation of vaccines.

“We have to put an end to government centralisation of vaccines. The government is the bottleneck in the vaccine process. There is little trust in them and they have little capability,” the research stated.

Solidarity instructed researchers to look at the safety, risks and other factors concerning the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and noted that there is a lack of information on China’s Sinovac and the Russian Sputnik V.

The research — titled “Vaccines — Helping or Hurting” — showed that vaccines do not guarantee that people will not contract Covid-19, but rather that the risk of infection is lowered, as is the chance of getting seriously sick or dying.

“There is more risk in not being vaccinated,” the union found.

And it does not eliminate the need for continued sound principles of hygiene, physical distancing and maintaining good health through proper eating and exercise.

The Covid-19 fatality rate was found to be 2.2%, or 22 deaths for every 1,000 patients who test positive, which is more than twice as high as flu, which has a fatality rate of one death for every 1,000 patients.

On vaccine effectiveness, Pfizer rated the highest at 95% on interim results. This was illustrated in the US which was currently reporting the lowest number of people being hospitalised since the onset of the pandemic — corresponding with increasing vaccinations in the adult population.

It was found that vaccines are effective in preventing infection, hospitalisation, serious illness and death owing to Covid-19. Data on possible long-term side effects does not yet exist leading to the conclusion that vaccines are safe in the short term.

The Pfizer vaccine was identified as the vaccine most difficult to transport because it needs to be stored at -70 °C, but could be stored in normal fridge temperatures for up to a month. Other vaccines relied only on normal cold chain technology.

The report also found that vaccines are not capable of causing Covid-19 infections because the virus is not in the vaccine. The spike protein in the vaccine that launches the body’s immune reaction to Covid-19 is harmless and present only in a quantity 100,000 times less than would be required to cause damage.

Side effects to the vaccines were found to be “exceedingly rare” and manageable if taken care of.

SA’s vaccine rollout was found to be a failed programme, with the country ranking 210 in the world and “behind most African countries”.

The report recommended that vaccines be privatised to ensure that government not maintain the monopoly, and that vaccination not be made mandatory. Government should instead work to instil trust among the population while keeping the process voluntary.

“We find vaccinating to be safe and effective for our members and therefore the broader public,” the union ultimately found.