DA Shadow Minister of Health, Siviwe Gwarube, on Thursday, 15 April 2021, said the Democratic Alliance “is opposed to the decision […] to halt the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine”.

“We need to get to the business of saving lives and livelihoods by launching a real vaccine rollout programme”.

Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health

Vaccine rollout suspended

This follows after Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced the rollout to the remaining healthcare workers will be paused while the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) is investigating adverse effects.

Gwarube said the investigation “needs to be concluded speedily in order for South Africa to resume and significantly ramp up the rollout of this life-saving vaccine”.

The shadow minister also added that the vaccine rollout “has been an unmitigated disaster thus far”. The DA feels that halting the vaccine rollout at this stage is a drastic step.

“It then begs the question why such a drastic step has been taken. Is it simply because government is shielding its own poor performance on the vaccine rollout so far?”

Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health

Damaging public’s perception of vaccines

Gwarube adds that “this kind of ‘stop-start’ approach could be incredibly damaging to the public perception of vaccination when the risks seem almost negligible statistically and scientifically”.

The party feels that the vaccine rollout in South Africa cannot be compared to the United States. The US can afford to stop the administration of one vaccine as it has more than one vaccine in circulation.

In addition, South Africa “only have tiny quantities of this single vaccine available to us”, and stopping the process at this point in the rollout would “spell disaster” for the country’s healthcare workers and the most vulnerable.

“The South African government has failed spectacularly thus far to procure a variety of vaccines in bulk, to reach the 1.2 million healthcare workers targeted, to produce a general rollout plan, and to move beyond the trial phase of the vaccine rollout”.

Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health

What can be done?

Moreover, Gwarube said the “rollout has been criminally slow”, and recommends – as the only rational approach – a cost-benefit analysis of the risks South Africans face.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our country – costing thousands of lives and millions of livelihoods. The risk of adverse effects is negligible when compared to the risks associated with a possible third wave of COVID-19 infections”.

Siviwe Gwarube, DA Shadow Minister of Health

The party, therefore, calls on Minister Mkhize and SAHPRA to “conclude these deliberations and assure South Africans that this is not merely a scapegoating exercise to shield government from accountability”.

Now read: Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension – What this means for you

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Presh JM Reporter

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