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Healthcare workers will be first to receive vaccine from India – Ramaphosa

File picture: Phill Magakoe/via Reuters

File picture: Phill Magakoe/via Reuters

Published Feb 1, 2021


Healthcare workers will be the first people in the country to receive Covid-19 vaccinations as the first batch of vaccines arrive from India today.

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the assurance on Monday when he addressed the 2021 annual NEDLAC Labour School, which includes the country’s three labour federations of Nactu, Cosatu and Saftu.

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Ramaphosa reiterated that the doses which are being flown from India would be used to immunise health workers first.

“Later today, South Africa will receive its first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute in India.

“This will mark the beginning of a mass vaccination campaign that will be the most ambitious and extensive in our country’s history. It will reach all parts of the country and will be phased to ensure that those most in need are prioritised,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the first vaccines to arrive would be provided to healthcare workers. The second phase would include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with comorbidities. The third phase will include other adults in the population.

“A comprehensive rollout strategy and an accompanying logistical framework will need to be implemented in partnership with labour, the private sector, civil society, traditional leadership, the religious sector and others.

“Each part of society will need to define its contribution to this effort,” he said.

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Ramaphosa said the role of organised labour was critical in reaching millions of workers, ensuring that they are informed and empowered, and that they can access vaccines at the appropriate time.

“Many of those who have been prioritised in the first two phases – healthcare and other front-line workers in particular – are members of the unions represented here. It is vital that they are ready to be vaccinated and that the doses reach them without undue delay.

“We have had engagements with employers in a number of sectors who have committed to working with the health authorities to ensure that their employees are vaccinated. They need to bring organised labour on board so that there is proper consultation, effective coordination and speedy implementation.

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“It is vital that the vaccination programme is a society-wide campaign, in which everyone is involved and no-one is left behind,” Ramaphosa said.

He said his government was aware of concerns that the government has not been sufficiently transparent about these efforts, saying organised labour has been prominent among those in society who, quite correctly, sought answers from government on the details of the vaccination plan.

“We accept these concerns as valid, and are making every effort to not only improve communication, but to ensure that all social partners are more directly involved in the development and implementation of the plan.

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“While the scale and complexity of this undertaking is far greater than anything we have done before, we nevertheless have ample experience of working together as a society to overcome difficult challenges.

“Alongside the vaccination programme, we will need to intensify our public health response to the disease. The basic measures that we have all become so familiar with – like mask wearing and social distancing – will need to continue,” Ramaphosa said.

Political Bureau