Vaccination vexation

Douglas Gibson says while the govt failed lamentably, there are others to blame

South Africa’s vaccination campaign has been a disastrous flop up to now. Only around 2.5 million people have been inoculated out of a population of 60 million. And the 2.5 million includes many who have received only the first dose and must receive the second soon.

Professor Schabir Mahdi of Wits University stated recently in Daily Maverick that poor planning on the part of the authorities would lead to hundreds of preventable deaths. He was referring to the Gauteng situation which, according to Premier Makhura, is “out of control.”

Hundreds will die because of a disastrously inept provincial health department that failed to listen to warnings from the scientists about the imminent third wave. How many people, probably in the thousands, will die unnecessarily because they have not been inoculated? Will these politicians and officials be held to account for the needless deaths?

It is now common knowledge that while bleating about the West and greedy rich countries holding onto their stocks of vaccine and companies holding patent rights, our government failed lamentably to start early and negotiate to buy the vaccines we need.

It was only when opposition leader John Steenhuisen started shouting about vaccines in December (for which he was dubbed Mampara of the Week” by the Sunday Times for being so negative) that Minister Mkhize and the president seemed to wake up to the looming crisis. Even now, more than six months later there are not nearly enough vaccines here to inoculate 70% of our people.

Just by way of comparison, the United States has inoculated more than half of its people (50.2%) by administering 321 million doses. They inoculate an average of 763,743 people a day. The British have done even better; with 56.9% inoculated and 75,963,777 doses administered they are among the leaders in the world. China has inoculated over 40% of its 1.5 billion people. Compare this with our pathetic performance.

Perhaps with Minister Mkhize about to be an ex-minister (surely that is going to happen, Mr President?) the government will have the time and energy to be able to concentrate on the welfare and the health of our citizens instead of the money to be made by the connected out of corruptly misusing our money.

But it is not only the government to blame. Three other categories share the blame. One is the anti-vaxers who spend their time persuading others not to be inoculated. Their arguments range from the bizarre to the ridiculous. They are entitled to their views but not entitled to place their children and the rest of us at risk of catching Covid from them. If people die because of this, the proud unvaxed Covid carriers ought to be charged with murder.

Then there are the doubters: they hesitate because they believe the nonsense about facing danger if they are inoculated. They place themselves and the people they come in contact with at a deadly risk of catching and passing on the virus. Sensible people need to encourage everyone to come forward; it is tragic to see inoculation venues standing empty because people fail to turn up, even when they have registered.

The third category is those people who ignore as far as possible the rules against gathering, partying, and the need for masking, social distancing and frequent washing. These measures, together with massively increased inoculation numbers, will finally beat this plague. These people must be prosecuted and if found guilty, severely punished for placing us at risk.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.