SOUTH AFRICA – The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has expressed its dismay at reports that some healthcare workers, including doctors, have discouraged patients from getting COVID-19 vaccinations, based on doubts about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
SAMA Chairperson, Dr Angelique Coetzee, said the organisation wholly rejects any doubts about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There is high confidence among the scientific and medical community about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines being rolled-out in South Africa, and they have also undergone safety and efficacy tests by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority,” Dr Coetzee said.
Dr Coetzee said the medical fraternity must be united in its commitment to ensure wider access to the vaccines.
This, she said, must be based on spreading accurate, evidence-based information, dispelling any misinformation and overcoming vaccine hesitancy, which threatens the goal of achieving optimal vaccine coverage.
She further noted that significant strides have been made by prioritizing healthcare workers for vaccines as well as immunizing more people, and that the government should be commended for this action.
South Africa has so far managed to administer 9.56 million vaccine doses, having fully immunized at least 23.7% of its population.
This is as eyes have been turned to the west in what has been termed as a shocking symbol of the west’s failure to honor its promise of equitable vaccine distribution for having vaccines manufactured in Africa shipped abroad.
Ten million COVID-19 vaccines partially produced in South Africa are being exported to Europe in August and September, according to an op-ed published in the Guardian by former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
This comes as many African nations have waited for access to adequate numbers of doses all year, with high-income countries hoarding vaccines rather than working to immunize the most vulnerable portions of society around the world.
Many African nations have gone through third and fourth waves of the coronavirus pandemic and seen their health systems overwhelmed, as less than 2% of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Nearly 500 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the European Union, which has a population of about 440 million people. Meanwhile, the African continent’s population is roughly three times that figure.
South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare operates the plant exporting the millions of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to Europe. Aspen is also manufacturing doses for the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust.
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