Portfolio committee backs Health Department on Covid-19 vaccine roll-out despite grumblings
Cape Town – While the health portfolio committee welcomed the Department of Health’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out strategy, the official opposition is pushing for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to monitor the plan.
On Sunday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said they were targeting a minimum of 67% of the population to achieve herd immunity, and the approach would be a phased roll-out of the vaccine beginning with the most vulnerable in our population.
“At this stage, we have secured the doses that will be acquired through Covax which will ensure that we immunise 10% of the population through this mechanism and, in line with President's statement, we expect the processes will have delivered the vaccine by the beginning of the second quarter,” Mkhize said, adding that efforts were made to obtain the vaccines as early as February.
On Tuesday, health portfolio committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo said they noted with appreciation and welcomed the department's Covid-19 vaccine roll-out strategy.
Dhlomo said the strategy boosted the hope of South Africans in the department and the leadership of Mkhize and his team in particular.
“We are looking forward, as the committee, to the successful roll-out of the plan and we are behind the department in its fight against this very brutal pandemic,” he said.
“We would engage as the committee during the course of this week for further clarity,” Dhlomo added.
But, the DA has urged National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, requesting an urgent debate regarding the country's vaccination-plan, for the establishment of an ad hoc committee.
This comes after Modise turned down their request last month saying it would be reconsidered in February.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said millions of South Africans depended on the vaccination strategy to ensure that the coronavirus pandemic’s constant attack on their lives and livelihoods were halted.
"They need to know the exact details of government’s plan.
“They need to know that their best interests are of the highest regard to the executive," she said.
"Without an urgent debate of national importance, Parliament can hardly assure South Africans that this is indeed the case," Mazzone said.
She also said Mkhize’s briefing has raised more questions than answers.
The party has since submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act application in order to shed more light on the procurement process, and distribution of vaccines.
Mazzone said Parliament had a critical oversight role to play and could not wait until well into the middle of the first quarter to perform this vital duty.
"To expect a debate of national importance to still hold relevance when the plan should have already been enacted at that time is foolish and would serve little purpose.
“There are aspects of the Covid-19 vaccination plan that deserves serious and immediate interrogation."
She also said it was Modise's duty to ensure that Parliament did not become constitutionally delinquent.
"An ad hoc committee should be established as a matter of urgency to oversee the roll out of the country’s vaccination program."