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HomeMedico-LegalJudge orders Health Department to disclose vaccine contract data

Judge orders Health Department to disclose vaccine contract data

The National Department of Health has been ordered by the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) to provide all details of the Covid-19 vaccines contracts it signed with manufacturers during the pandemic.

This follow an application by the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) for access to the documents.

The government signed several vaccine contracts at the time, but has disclosed few aspects of the deals it signed with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, the Serum Institute of India and the international vaccine sharing mechanism, Covax. Nor has it revealed details of negotiations with other parties, like pharmaceutical manufacturer Moderna, or the AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.

BusinessLIVE reports that the HJI had asked the department to provide the full record of its negotiations for the vaccines under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). When it refused, the HJI launched legal action, saying it had a constitutional obligation to ensure procurement was transparent, and to provide timely and accurate information.

Last Thursday, Judge Anthony Millar ruled that it was in the public interest for the records to be disclosed as “every one of the more than 30m South Africans who received one or more doses of one or other of the vaccines, and those who chose not to … have paid and may continue to pay … for what was negotiated by the department …”.

He found no merit in arguments presented by the Health Department as to why it should not provide the records, ordering it to provide the documents within 10 days.

Foster Mohale, spokesperson for the department, said they were still consulting the legal team on the way forward, while Fatima Hassan, founder of the HJI, called the judgment a massive victory for transparency and accountability.

“The contracting process has been marred by allegations that the government procured vaccines at differential, comparatively inflated prices, and that the agreements may contain onerous and inequitable terms including broad indemnification clauses, export restrictions and non-refundability clauses,” she told The Sunday Tribune.

The secrecy surrounding vaccine procurement at the height of the pandemic was a global issue, she added. “It is important to know what was agreed to in our name at the behest of powerful vaccine manufacturers, who have reportedly bullied governments in the Global South especially, insisting on contracts that ultimately raked in huge profits, without maximum accountability and openness.”

Gerhard Papenfus, chief executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa, said the judgment was welcomed after years of silence.

“We share the view that this was one gigantic sham. The court had agreed that the public needs to know the nature of agreement between our government and the pharmaceutical companies. Why the silence and secrecy? We are extremely excited that this has happened.”

Sunday Tribune PressReader article – Ruling a shot in the arm (Open access)


BusinessLIVE article – Court orders health department to disclose Covid-19 vaccine contracts (Restricted access)


Sunday Tribune PressReader article – Ruling a shot in the arm (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Health activists seek access to SA’s confidential vaccine supply agreements


Health campaigners want access to SA’s vaccine contract with J&J


Health Justice wants to join private vaccine procurement application






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