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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Lack of communication around vaccine procurement ‘leaves space for conjecture’

Hassan said the vaccine contracts for the world must be reviewed and set aside if need be.


By October this year, all the vaccines filled by Aspen in South Africa will stay on African soil and not be exported.

Earlier this week, the founder and director of the Health Justice Initiative, Fatima Hassan, dropped a bombshell about the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine contract with South Africa and the export of vaccines to Europe.

Professor Alex van den Heever, chair of social security systems administration and management studies at the Wits School of Governance, said after clarification with various stakeholders, including civil society groups, it was clear that Aspen has no control over any aspect of the J&J contract with the South African government.

“The scheduling of deliveries to South Africa and Africa are determined by J&J in terms of undisclosed agreements which should be placed in the public domain,” Van den Heever said.

He said despite the massive public interest in the delivery of vaccines to South Africa and Africa, no attempt was made by J&J to keep the public aware of what they are doing and why.

“Despite the obvious advantage for South Africa and Africa of having production within the subregion, no advantage accrues unless either the licences are granted for local production and/ or governments intervene to protect the interests of the domestic regional populations,” Van den Heever said.

Van den Heever said currently no such licence has been allocated and the SA government comes across as a weak negotiator.

“This may be a misperception, however, as the communication strategy around vaccine procurement is intermittent and incomplete, leaving space for conjecture,” he said. Van der Heever said the public has a right to know everything to do with the Covid strategy.

“Their right to know cannot be treated as an afterthought. This is how trust is built and retained,” he said.

Hassan said the vaccine contracts for the world must be reviewed and set aside if need be.

“What was agreed, when, why? How can the CEOs of a few companies, their lawyers, vaccine middlemen and procurers have so much power in a pandemic,” Hassan said.