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Millions of unused, expired COVID vaccines to be destroyed, says Phaahla

The government is expecting to throw away millions of COVID-19 vccines by October when they expire, said Health Minister Joe Phaahla, because of the disappointingly low uptake of the jabs.

Speaking on the final day of the Treatment Action Campaign’s (TAC’s) seventh National Congress on Monday, he said: “We are sitting with 10m doses and on average, only 10 000 are being distributed weekly.”

He added that the pandemic had been “stressful”, “isolating” and affected people’s mental health adversely. He said the pandemic was not over, but still “lurking”, reports Daily Maverick, and that the country had not met its vaccine target, with adult vaccination currently at 52% as opposed to the targeted 70%.

HIV/Aids treatment affected

The pandemic had also had a severe impact on HIV/Aids treatment and adherence as a result of lockdown restrictions, with people defaulting on treatment and regressing.

The Minister said that he saw COVID-19 as an equaliser when it came to health because heads of state and top businesspeople were equally affected, which he felt was the reason vaccines had been developed so quickly.

However, rebutting this was the director of the Rural Health Action Programme, Russell Rensburg, who said: “COVID wasn’t an equaliser: it was disproportionately borne by the poor. Many people weren’t even able to access the test and that’s really sad that you say it was an equaliser. “If we’ve learnt anything in the past few years, it’s that enjoyment of equal rights is not equal.”

Xenophobic comments

At the congresss, Phaahla declined to comment on Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba’s recent xenophobic comments. Instead, he said: “As a country, we must commit to the Constitution. We are guided by law, including international law, in terms of how everybody in South Africa should be treated… there is no room for discrimination when people seek help.

“We must take responsibility for the people of South Africa and those who are here in the country for various reasons. We also expect those in institutions and those committed to providing services to discharge that responsibility and coordinate resources in an orderly fashion.”

Responding, TAC national chairperson Sibongile Tshabalala said: “On the issue of medical xenophobia, which you said you don’t want to address, we cannot avoid it, and stand on principle (as TAC) that it is wrong for us as Africans to discriminate against each other. We are calling on government to speak out against this, it is wrong to fight each other – remember these borders were created by apartheid. We cannot call Africans illegal in South Africa – there is no human being who is illegal.”

Tshabalala implored the Minister to look into healthcare staff attitudes, long waiting times that often resulted in people dying, and corruption in the Department of Health.

Among the TAC’s congress resolutions were commitments to:
• Denounce medical xenophobia, particularly in light of Ramathuba’s outburst last week;
• Ensure the availability/equitable distribution of ambulances in adequate working condition (out of Gauteng’s 1 080 ambulances only 300 work);
• Support universal health coverage, saying that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill in its current form does not meet these criteria. The TAC will consider legal action to ensure that people’s constitutional rights are not violated by the NHI;
• Challenge austerity measures currently being imposed in the health system;
• Advocate that antiretroviral treatment be increased to a 12-month prescription to boost adherence;
• Ensure people are treated with dignity when fetching medication;
• Ensure access to mental healthcare services is improved, with a delegate saying “there should not only be social workers at clinics, because they are not qualified to deal with mental health issues, there should be psychologists and psychiatrists available”; and
• Revive the Stop Stockouts campaign, which released a report on Tuesday, as it was morally unacceptable that many medicines are unavailable at clinics.


Daily Maverick article – Millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses will have to be destroyed, Health Minister Joe Phaahla tells TAC congress


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Unjabbed patients face variants risk; obesity weakens vaccine protection – Recent studies


Crisp: Vaccine apathy means SA may have to destroy COVID-19 doses


Why Omicron doesnʼt need its own custom COVID vaccine


With 7m doses set to expire, DOH tries to boost sluggish vaccination campaign




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