This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who acts as the AU chairperson, announced that the AU, through The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, had secured a provisional 270 million vaccine doses for African countries.
It is said that at least 50 million of the vaccines will be made available from April to June, the period that marks autumn and winter in the sub-Saharan region.
Ramaphosa was also quoted as saying that arrangements had been made with Afreximbank to support member states seeking to access the vaccines. On the delivery of the vaccines, “member states may pay using their internal resources or access an instalment payment facility of up to five years, offered by Afreximbank”.
In his address to South Africans this past Monday, Ramaphosa indicated that his administration was also trying to secure the Covax vaccine.
He said an effective vaccine would be a game-changer for the country as it offered the control mechanisms needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic, and that a person vaccinated had a much-reduced chance of becoming ill or dying from Covid-19.
While this is good news for the many families whose households have been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that Ramaphosa not only assures us about the availability of the vaccine, but also focuses on an important aspect that threatens our democracy – corruption.
Just as we saw with the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment, the entire system was mired in corruption as companies, government officials and owners of non-existent and inexperienced companies claimed millions of rand from government coffers.
We can’t afford and should never allow this monumental graft and theft to affect the procurement and distribution of vaccines.
The president needs to tell us exactly how the process will unfold and who will be held accountable.
The government has indicated that this vaccine roll-out programme will be far more extensive than the HIV programme. This means that we, as South Africans, should, and must, demand accountability and transparency and fight for what’s right.
If we don’t, we will rue all the days we chose to remain silent while our people die like flies and the greedy fill their pockets with vaccine funds.