Health department backtracks on ’special groups’ to get early vaccination

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Jul 6, 2021

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After numerous queries, submissions and some backlash on social media, the Department of Health has issued a retraction on the circular which states that special groups can apply to be vaccinated ahead of schedule.

Deputy director-general of the department, Dr Nicholas Crisp, issued the circular on Monday, however issued a retraction on Tuesday.

Crisp said the circular has been withdrawn in its entirety.

“Following the circular on the vaccination of special groups and individuals against Covid-19 there have been numerous comments, queries and submissions that indicate that the Circular is unclear in its intentions,” he said.

The initial circular was to inform the public that “special groups” who are not yet eligible to receive their Covid-19 vaccine may be considered by filling out a form and emailing the department.

Those who could apply to receive early shots included ministers, deputy ministers, premiers, members of the executive council (MEC), diplomats, those who need to travel outside of the country for business, sportsmen/women, or those accessing medical care.

The circular was met with some criticism on social media.

Founder and director of the Health Justice Initiative (HJI), Fatima Hassan, said on Twitter that special vaccine “passes” should not be granted unless it is based on health profile risk.

“We must call on the Presidency and the Government to withdraw this circular, immediately. No vaccine elitism or apartheid here, please,” she said.

Acting Minister of Health Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the circular was not authorised by the Inter-​Ministerial Committee which is the final decider on target population.

“I have consistently maintained that I will vaccinate when my age group population is opened, this the stance by many of my colleagues. The circular has been withdrawn,” she said.

South Africa has vaccinated over 3.4 million people since the start of the rollout.

The national rollout started with healthcare workers under the Sisonke Johnson & Johnson program in February, this was followed by the over 60s category in May, education sector workers in June, and the over 50s category and Police in July.

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