South Africa is well and truly in the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic now.
At the latest count, the country recorded 19,506 new cases and 383 deaths in a 24-hour period.
Pay close attention to these numbers.
Now, compare this data with, say, that of the UK government, which reported 26,608 new daily infections - but ONLY 14 deaths for the same period.
Why the stark contrast in the ratio of infections to deaths - at a time when both countries are battling the new, highly transmissible Delta variant?
The simple answer: vaccinations.
The vaccines are working and they are saving lives.
It’s the only ticket out of this recurring nightmare.
In the UK, nearly 45 million people have been vaccinated with their first dose - that’s 85% of their adult population.
And over 32 million people (62.5%) have had their second shot.
By the end of July, it is projected that all Brits over the age of 18 will be vaccinated.
South Africa, on the other hand, has only vaccinated 3 million citizens so far (3,026,636 to be exact).
According to Our World in Data, 23.5% of the global population has been vaccinated to date.
SA’s vaccination rate is among the lowest in the world - at just 5%.
It begs the question: Why are we so far behind?
At the beginning of the year, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that R10 billion rand would be allocated for the purchase and delivery of vaccines.
However, government has opted to only do business with US (Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer) and UK (Oxford - AstraZeneca) pharmaceutical companies.
This has proven to be a raw deal, and the rollout has been hampered by several setbacks.
– For starters, Western nations have been stockpiling vaccines, leaving SA right at the back at the procurement queue.
Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, explained: “Your US, your Canada, your European countries have been hoarding vaccines. Some of them have more stock than their own actual population.”
Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said Pfizer had delivered nearly 4.5 million vaccine doses in the second quarter and had committed to another 15.5 million doses in the third quarter.
J&J has delivered 500,000 shots for healthcare workers, 1.5 million in June and a further 500,000 doses are expected “soon”.
– Secondly, the AstraZeneca vaccine proved to be ineffective against the “South African” Beta variant and we ended up selling 1 million doses of it to other African countries.
And last month, a batch of 2 million J&J doses was found to have been contaminated and had to be dumped.
– Thirdly, only 40% of South Africans over 60 have been vaccinated. The Health Department blames this on a lack of registrations and issues with the Electronic Vaccination Data System.
Gatvol at the slow rollout process, the EFF marched to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) last Friday.
Leader Julius Malema warned that there would be mass protests if the Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinovac vaccines were not authorised within seven days.
Hundreds attended the “March to Save Lives”. Yes, social distancing was disregarded and many protesters were not wearing masks. But that was beside the point.
SAHPRA stood their ground, tweeting they “will not be pressured to allow the public access to any product that has not met the necessary regulatory requirements and been found to be appropriate for use in South Africa”.
But come on, the Russian and Chinese vaccines were developed last year already, why are they still in SAHPRA’s clinical trial phase?
We’re in a crisis here, hurry up!
Sputnik V has been registered in 67 countries and several research centres reported it to have an efficacy rate of over 90%.
Sinovac has been claimed to be 50% to 90% effective against Covid-19.
Why haven’t we procured vaccines from the Russians and Chinese?
They are, after all, our BRICS trade partners. There’s a good chance of getting a membership discount.
We could have ordered our doses last year.
The answer is Cyril Ramaphosa has already committed to deals with UK and US pharmaceutical companies.
Visiting the Aspen drug manufacturer in the Eastern Cape earlier this year, the president said: “I am pleased to inform you that Johnson & Johnson has agreed to make 250 million vaccines available to Africa with 30 million for South Africans.
“This world class facility is in another league and I congratulate Aspen on this facility to manufacture vaccines for our country and for our continent.
“I would also like to congratulate Aspen on living up to their promise of investing more than R3 billion in our country.”
Done deal. That was in March. It’s July now.
Sorry to say it, but Ramaphosa has sold South Africans out and his pharma friends have left us for dead.
With any luck, we’ll get our injections before the fourth wave hits...