COSATU statement on the faltering COVID-19 Vaccination programme

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted with concern the government’s mismanagement of the vaccination programme. The failure to meet the expected targets that were set by the government itself will have deadly consequences.

The promises and commitments by the government are starting to sound hollow. The nation was told that about 1,5 million people will be vaccinated by the end of the month of March, but this target has not been met. Phase 1 of the vaccine roll out has been sluggish with health care workers not being inoculated fast enough. In fact, less than 200 000 health workers have been vaccinated to date.

People of South Africa have every reason to feel let-down by this stunning failure by the government.  Workers like all other South Africans need these vaccines not only to ensure they can remain healthy and protect, their families but also so that the economy can be allowed to recover. 

Workers are the cogs in the engine of the economy. Equally, the government is playing Russian roulette with the lives of the most vulnerable persons, namely those over 60 years of age or with co-morbidities.

COSATU and its affiliates have committed to undertake mass public education programmes to mobilise all workers, their families and the public to encourage them to vaccinate. What frustrate workers is to talk about an illusive vaccine that is still being procured and sourced from all over the world.

It is now clearly obvious that  the June 2022 target of 70% herd immunity will not be reached. The economy is going to pay a huge price for this lackadaisical approach and with the anticipated third wave, more people will lose their lives unnecessarily.

South Africa is being left behind by other peer countries because of indecisive leadership and bureaucratic bungling. Blaming industrialised nations for moving with speed to secure vaccines is of little comfort and does not hold water.  Morocco, Egypt and even Seychelles have moved far ahead with regards to vaccinating their populations.  Several countries are likely to achieve their 70% population immunity levels in mid-2021. 

South Africans now face severe travel restrictions; only nine (9) countries are currently allowing South Africans to travel to them.  The rest have either banned or placed severe restrictions on South Africans entering.  The inexplicable delays in securing vaccines now threaten the collapse of our tourism industry.  The broader tourism industry accounts for more than 1 in 10 jobs in South Africa.

The Federation is calling on the government to expedite the vaccination programme and hold accountable those who have failed to perform their responsibilities to ensure that the vaccination targets are met. This lack of accountability will lead to the country losing the fight against this deadly pandemic ravaging the country.

These delays are unacceptable, especially because South Africans have been very patient and cooperative with the government’s lockdowns and restrictions; despite the devastation, these restrictions are having on their lives.

This faltering vaccination programme needs to be resuscitated because its failure will result in unnecessary deaths and also will deal a fatal blow to our fragile economy. The target of achieving 67% population immunity in June 2022 is simply unacceptable.  We should not be giving a free pass to mediocrity. 

A ramped up vaccine procurement and dispensing programme that will ensure we achieve 70% immunity levels by December 2021 must be the government’s number one priority. 

 Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911

Fax: 011 339 5080

Cell: 060 975 6794