SOUTH AFRICA- South African Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has announced a ZAR2.3 billion (US$150m) allocation for the COVID-19 immunization drive in the 2022/23 financial year in his inaugural Budget Speech.

The National Treasury in the 2022 Budget Review said the additional allocation was being made despite the bulk of vaccine purchases having been made in the 2021/22 financial year.

COVID-19 vaccines are free at the point of delivery and have been progressively offered to different population groups since February 2021 but only 42% of South Africa’s adults are fully immunized.

The government initially struggled to obtain supplies but eventually procured enough to vaccinate the country’s entire adult population.

It is now grappling with falling demand with the daily vaccination rate running at a seven-day moving average of about 63,000, far below the August peak of 241,000.

The country has experienced four significant waves of the virus with 3.6 million confirmed cases and 95,000 confirmed deaths by the end of January 2022.

The allocation set aside to procure vaccines is aimed at accelerating the country’s vaccination campaigns in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

An additional ZAR15.6 billion (US$1b) is allocated to provincial health departments to support their continued response to COVID-19 and to bridge shortfalls in essential goods and services,” said the Finance Minister.

He added that ZAR3.3 billion (US$210m) was allocated to absorb medical interns and community service doctors.

The National Treasury said as larger numbers of doctors complete their training provincial Health Departments would need to offer more medical internships and community service posts.

The Treasury further said that over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, ZAR7.8 b (US$510m) would be allocated to the statutory human resources component of the human resources and training grant which supplements provincial funding for the posts.

Of this amount, ZAR3.3 billion (US$210m) is additional allocations and ZAR744.7m (US$48m) was reprioritized from other health spending items.

The Department of Health will have to finance any future shortfalls in funding within its baseline,” highlighted the Treasury.

Meanwhile, there is an ongoing legal challenge by the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and other concerned organizations to halt the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine to children between the ages of 12 and 17 to be heard over two days in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.

The ACDP and other organizations such as Free the Children – Save the Nation will ask the court for an interim interdict against child vaccinations, pending the outcome of an internal appeal before the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority, to completely stop the programme.

The ACDP is determined to suspend the roll-out of vaccines to adolescents aged 12 to 17 due to a claim that COVID-19 vaccines pose a risk to adolescents.

The Health Ministry believes that suspending the roll-out of vaccines to teenagers is not in the best interests of children and may lead to violations of their rights to basic education, health equality and nutrition.

Vaccination is a necessary measure with the recent announcement that all secondary schools were now required to reopen fully, with social distancing rules and rotational timetables scrapped.

“Vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective at preventing severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 in young people,” reports the Health Ministry.

The party claimed that the decision of the regulator to granting authorization for the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 17 was contrary to the best interests of children.

It claimed that children were being used as a shield to protect adult society, when in fact adult society should be protecting children.

Moreover, The Health Justice Initiative has taken legal action to try to compel the government to disclose details of the contracts it has signed with coronavirus vaccine manufacturers.

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