A pandemic is no time for austerity, says vaccine coalition

People’s Vaccine Campaign demands participation in government plan

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A campaign for vaccines has been started by the C19 People’s Coalition. Photo: Armin Kübelbeck (CC-BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons)

Austerity in a time of a pandemic is self-defeating, says the newly-established People’s Vaccine Campaign.

The campaign, initiated by the C19 People’s Coalition and endorsed by about 90 organisations, called on civil society to play an active role in the government’s national vaccine strategy.

“Depending on whether we use a vaccine that requires one or two doses, anywhere between 40 to 80 million doses will be needed,” says the campaign in a statement, “along with a massive roll-out effort to achieve herd immunity. This cannot be done by the government alone. We, the people, especially the millions of us who live in the direst of circumstances, must be central to this effort.”

“The scale of the national vaccine roll-out programme will require a long overdue injection of billions of rands into our public health system … Yet, the current budget framework envisages cutting the public health allocation by R10 billion (4.4%) in real terms over the next three years. In its February 2020 budget, the National Treasury already cut R3.4 billion in real terms from public health compared to the 2019 budget, just when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged here.”

“There must be increased health spending to build the capacity of the national health system, and National Health Insurance (NHI) to ensure decent and equal healthcare for all in SA.”

The statement said the problem of vacancies in the public health system — estimated at 37,000 in 2018 — had not been addressed. “Thousands of qualified nurses and other health professionals who have been unemployed for several years or have no job security, are ready to serve the nation.”

The combined resources of both the private and the public sector would be necessary for a successful vaccination programme, said the statement, with half the country’s health care spending covering only 16% of the population.

“The combined capabilities, capacities, and resources of both health systems, and social solidarity are crucial for the success of a People’s Vaccine Campaign,” says the statement. “The predatory and profiteering practices of the private sector and pharmaceutical industry that notoriously seek profit over people’s lives must be challenged and monitored. “

On the question of mistrust of the vaccine, the statement called for national information and education campaigns and better communication. “Lives now depend on trust building.”

Rehad Desai, a member of the C19 People’s Coalition, said one of the campaign’s objectives was “genuine participation from civil society” in the structures set up to implement the vaccine rollout.

The campaign will also focus on the efforts of South Africa and poorer countries to manufacture the vaccine. Both South Africa and India have petitioned for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) not to enforce patents and intellectual property rights of Covid-19 related technologies and vaccines.

Another area of focus will be international obligations. In some countries, Desai said, undocumented immigrants were not part of the rollout plan. An objective of the campaign will be to ensure that this does not happen in South Africa.

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TOPICS:  Covid-19

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