Mon, 08 Mar 2021

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

A call to action endorsed by over 500 organizations and individuals in South Africa is aiming to unite millions of the nation's citizens in order to acquire 40 to 80 million doses of vaccine to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic is wreaking havoc," organizers proclaimed in a recent letter published in the Mail&Guardian. "Vaccinating a significant part of the population is the only way to defeat the pandemic."

"This cannot be done by the government alone. We, the people, must be central to this effort."

Signers included Black Sash, Amandla Collective, Extinction Rebellion South Africa, Human Rights Forum, and the National Union of Care Workers of South Africa, the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, among many others.

The action call was inspired by the People's Vaccine Alliance and Free the Vaccine, they said.

Signers to the letter called out the ANC, charging a poor record of public service delivery, widespread corruption and mismanagement, as well as profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry, private healthcare and other corporate interests.

High among the reasons for the campaign was inequality in health care spending of which half serves only 16% of the population while the other half covers 84%, they said. "South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Without collaborative coordination, we will not see the end of this pandemic."

They noted the disproportionate impact on women who already suffer from illness, poverty and violence. Austerity was blamed for funding shortfalls for the public health system.

"Many countries are addressing the pandemic on a narrow, nationalist basis. Wealthy nations in Europe, Canada and the US have pre-ordered large numbers of vaccine doses which exceed the need of their own populations. Some countries are refusing to vaccinate migrants and asylum seekers or populations under their occupation. The vaccine must be for all of us," they stressed.

Finally, they added, the rise of misinformation, science denialism, anti-vaxxer sentiments and vaccine hesitancy presents an incredibly worrying picture. "Skepticism of government, the pharmaceutical industry and the private health sector creates fertile ground for opportunism and fear-mongering."

There are over 1.26 million cases of COVID-19 in South Africa and over 34,000 deaths. Local hospitals are overwhelmed.

In response, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has extended the country's unpopular coronavirus restrictions, closing beaches, public parks, and banning alcohol sales.

A shipment of 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for health care workers from the Serum Institute in India is expected this month as the nation grapples with an "escape mutant" of the South African variant virus.

For inquiries, contact: peoplesvaccinecampaign@gmail.com, for updates: Facebook: C19 People's Coalition and Twitter: @CovidCoalition. [IDN-InDepthNews - 19 January 2021]

Photo: FAO DG Qu Dongyu. Credit: WTOCC BY-SA 2.0

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