South Africa: Vaccine Apartheid or Equality?

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South Africa: Vaccine Apartheid or Equality?

Rehad Desai

We are in the middle of a global shortage of supplies of COVID-19 vaccines. We are reliving the saga that happened early in the pandemic around access to personal protective equipment (PPE), where each country fought for its own patch. Getting the vaccine doses we require for South African healthcare workers is the most we can hope for in the coming weeks. Obtaining anything more within the next six months will be almost impossible for the majority of countries in the global South that did not, or were unable to, make pre-orders or payment commitments. South Africa might just possibly be... the exception.

Understanding why we have got to the place where access to life-saving vaccines is out of reach to billions of people bears some scrutiny. But perhaps it would be relevant to start with some comments on the role that vaccines have played in bolstering public health systems.

The echo of denialism around their importance is prevalent across society, infecting even some in the government and, judging by the recent comments by Professor Barry Schoub in the Daily Maverick, some members of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) too. Prof Schoub says vaccines “are not a silver bullet.” Nobody is arguing that they are. But herd protection rather than herd immunity for the global population is not only possible, but particularly urgent given the emergence of new variant strains that are significantly more transmissible.

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