[imagesource: Dini Mekuto]
The first vaccines arriving in South Africa is very good news.
Yesterday, one million COVID-19 vaccine doses, developed by AstraZeneca and supplied by India’s Serum Institute, touched down in the country, and the crowd went wild.
By crowd, I mean the politicians who rushed to OR Tambo International Airport, ogling the Boeing 777 carrying with it our best chance of beating this truly awful virus.
Present at the airport were President Ramaphosa, Deputy President David Mabuza, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, and High Commissioner of the Republic of India Jaideep Sarkar.
Mabuza chairs the inter-ministerial committee on vaccines, part of which entails ensuring the R21 billion budget isn’t looted. Given his past, which includes that time he “siphoned off money from schools and other public services in Mpumalanga to buy loyalty and amass enormous power”, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not filled with confidence.
Visuals of the plane touching down were broadcast live on multiple news channels, people on social media spoke of becoming emotional at the sight of it all (I can understand that), and a bunch of politicians who have consistently failed to deliver on their mandates smiled from ear to ear.
Maybe it’s because this year’s State of the Nation address won’t feature a red carpet arrival (which should be the case every year, for eternity), with reporters fawning over what our ministers are wearing, so this is the next best thing.
Anyway, let’s see some footage of our leaders patting themselves on the back, for a vaccine arrival that really should have taken weeks ago, at a price far lower than what we eventually paid:
These guys would turn up and celebrate the opening of a toilet. Hang on, news just in – the ANC actually did that.
But a million doses, man – that’s pretty epic, right? Let’s get some context from News24’s Kyle Cowan:
…as was no doubt intended by government spin doctors, it was treated as a spectacle and little to no critical context was provided.
The reality is that this is not a moment for self-congratulatory elbow bumps or back slapping. The million doses, with 500 000 more expected later this month, will be enough to vaccinate 750 000 of the country’s estimated 1.2 million healthcare workers.
Many vaccines require two jabs a few weeks apart.
It’s the best government has been able to come up with despite claiming that it has been in negotiations with vaccine makers for months. For government to meet its ambitious goal of vaccinating 40 million people before the end of the year, tens of millions of doses will be needed.
The 1.5 million doses from the SII will be enough to jab just 1.8% of that goal and won’t even cover the full phase one rollout plan.
Despite this, health officials, and President Cyril Ramaphosa, will claim this as a victory, as progress and are already saying it’s a turning point. It’s not.
We’re left needing tens of millions of doses more, and no concrete timeline as to when these will arrive, with some estimates saying somewhere around the middle of the year.
There’s a reason President Ramaphosa delivers his ‘family meeting’ speeches without a journalist in sight to answer a follow-up question.
Rico’s Tuesday cartoon, published on The Daily Maverick, just about summed it up:
Healthcare workers, first in line to receive the vaccinations, will also be waiting around two weeks before getting the jab.
For more on how that rollout will work, read this from Business Insider SA.
Look, the arrival of vaccines that will protect those on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 is great, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we have become so accustomed to celebrating absolute mediocrity from our leaders.
Time and time again, the bottom of the barrel is scraped, and we are told be thankful by those who consistently proven to be incapable of the jobs they are tasked with.
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