South Africa’s declaration to exclude millions of undocumented immigrants from its immunization program has sparked controversy, as the country expects to take delivery of its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines from India on Monday.
The health minister Zweli Mkhize had on Saturday announced the policy which many have regarded as discriminatory. The announcement contradicts the country’s treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane who told news editors days earlier that the government will not “turn away undocumented people.”
“All you need when you go [to a vaccination center] is to show that you have got an ID, you are a South African registered voter,” Mkhize said, appearing to even sideline foreign nationals with legal status.
“For those who are undocumented, we are not able to deal with that because at the moment we would like to be able to deal with people based on the South African registration. So at this point, we have no plan to deal with those that are not documented.”
Millions of migrants from all over the continent and beyond who have sought refuge for economic and political reasons, now live in South Africa.
The health minister’s remarks to exclude millions of undocumented immigrants were immediately criticised by both locals and foreigners with one South African lawyer declaring the plan unconstitutional.
“The suggestion by minister of health, Zweli Mkhize, that vaccine rollout be limited to citizens is unconstitutional. The constitution guarantees the right to health to everyone in South Africa,” Advocate Jason Brickhill, a constitutional lawyer said on twitter.
“It also makes no public health sense – the virus does not check people’s papers!”
Several groups which represent foreigners who live in South Africa also condemned the vaccination strategy saying leaving out other groups will only complicate the already formidable war against the coronavirus pandemic.
Others said the policy was irrational and xenophobic.
While speaking to journalists, Dr. Vusumuzi Sibanda, chairman of the African Diaspora Forum said “What Mkhize is saying is that only South African citizens will get the vaccine; that means all foreigners here legally or illegally will not be vaccinated. It makes no sense.”
South Africa is currently topping the chart with the most COVID-19 cases in Africa. To date, the country has recorded over 1.4 million Covid-19 infections and 44,000 deaths.
The government has said it aims to inoculate two-thirds of its population or 40 million people, so as to achieve herd immunity.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will receive the country’s first order of 1 million AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses from India, and the first group of people expected to receive the jabs will be healthcare workers over the next three or so months.
The country has secured an additional 20 million doses from Pfizer plus millions of vaccines from other drug manufacturers.
COVID-19: World Bank Pledges 30 African Countries Vaccine Grants
Not less than thirty African countries will be helped by the World Bank through emergency funding for the procurement of vaccines.
Many African countries are yet to start vaccination programmes although Western nations have already vacccinated millions of people.
A larger percentage of African nations rely on the WHO-backed COVAX facility which has shipped vaccines to three African countries already; Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
The World Bank says funds are being prepared for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Niger, Mozambique, Tunisia, eSwatini, Rwanda, Senegal, amongst others but failed to reveal how much they will be getting to aid their vaccines procurement.
The bank has said the funds are available and will be given out as grants to African countries or on highly concessional terms.
A spokesperson of the World Bank said it is the first time the bank will financially back an immunisation plan.
Africa is not as ravaged as the rest of the world but with more than 100,000 deaths recorded so far, the CDC has said it is not in a good place.
Dr. John Nkegasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control noted the continent has no business recording as many deaths as it has done.
Zambia to Recruit 395 Health Workers for COVID-19 Fight
Zambia’s Minister of Health, Jonas Chanda, has announced plans to recruit 395 health workers to lessen the burden on the workforce worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chanda confirmed that President Edgar Lungu had authorised the hiring of more health workers as part of the COVID-19 response.
“The epidemiology of the COVID-19 has contributed to an unprecedented increase in the demands on the healthcare workforce, and simultaneously
diminished health worker supply,” he said in a statement.
“The ministry has also employed the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes platform to enhance the capacity of the current staff through
mentorship and case management”, said the official.
Chanda acknowledged that the country had seen reduced numbers of COVID-19 cases in the past one week, but warned against complacency.
According to him, more efforts need to be exerted in order to sustain the gains and prevent an anticipated third wave in the cold season.
Zambia recorded 555 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the cumulative cases to 79,557. The cases were picked from 6,266 tests done,
representing a nine per cent positivity.
During the same period, the country recorded six deaths, bringing the total deaths to 1,104, while 476 patients were discharged,
bringing the total recoveries to 75,563.
Nigeria Receives First Batch Of COVID-19 Vaccines
The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organisation and GAVI’s COVAX facility has arrived Nigeria.
The vaccines were received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory on Tuesday morning.
Nigeria has received 3.92million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the first batch and it is expected to be administered on health workers, people who work in the essential service areas and some other citizens.
The vaccines with the brand name COVIShield is made as a patent of AstraZeneca vaccine, by the Serum Institute of India.
Nigeria is West Africa’s worst-hit country with 156,017 cases and 1915 deaths recorded so far at a fatality rate of 1.22%, which is lower than the African average of more than 2.5% fatality.
COVAX vaccination programmes have already started in Ivory Coast and Ghana, with President Nana Akufo-Addo and his wife receiving the vaccines publicly on Monday in Accra.
The vaccination rollout and scheduling will be handled by the Nigerian Primary Healthcare board.
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