EDITORIAL | SA can’t allow Covid politics to put lives at risk
We were already playing catch up but J&J vaccine rollout delay has us falling dangerously further behind
Health minister Zweli Mkhize used his last day in office to appeal to the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to sort out delays in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout. “We are very desperate to get those vaccines; we need them yesterday,” he said.
On the same day, the acting minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the government was speaking to the FDA about an early release of the vaccines. “If they can’t,” she said, “then we will speak to the US government to see if the holdup is only scientific or political. If it is political, then we need to engage so that we can get the vaccines.”
It seems unthinkable that political power games could be standing in the way of preventing Covid-19 deaths across the world. Mkhize is right; SA is desperate for those vaccines. We are still reeling from the AstraZeneca setback. Had it not been for research showing that vaccine did not offer protection against the new, more infectious strain that hit SA shores at the end of last year, we would have had a huge boost ahead of a third wave of infections. SA was already playing catch up; now we are falling even further behind. This time, though, it is not because of our own government’s ineptitude. We are dependent on the FDA to give us the green light to release certain batches of J&J vaccines that may or may not have been manufactured with components contaminated in a US factory...