covid-19 vaccine

Talks of Covid-19 vaccine nepotism spark outrage

Andile Sicetsha - 13.05.2021

Some healthcare officials have come forward with startling claims that non-healthcare workers have been getting jabbed under the Sisonke programme.

In the Sisonke programme’s final week of running ‘test’ inoculations in the healthcare sector, accusations have popped up about growing instances of nepotism in the trial COVID-19 vaccine drive.

Is the private sector taking advantage of the rules?

Various sources have come forward with claims that the extended inclusion of healthcare companies in the last phase of the government’s study has given rise to chance-takers who’ve allegedly jumped the queue to get a jab.

In a bid to cast a wider net to include healthcare officials in the private sector, the health department allocated a portion of the available consignment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to corporations.

This meant that employees working in private healthcare, irrespective of the nature of the position they hold, qualified for J&J’s single-dose jab which, according to the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), “provides 57% protection against moderate-severe disease, 85% protection against severe disease and 100% protection against death.”

Allegations of nepotism in COVID-19 Sisonke vaccine programme

Since the start of the WHO-backed SIsonke study in February, at least a third of South Africa’s private healthcare officials have been getting the jab. However, things started looking awry in the final week of the programme when, suddenly, a spike was seen in vaccine registrations in certain areas.

At Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, scores of healthcare workers were turned away after being informed that the vaccine centre had run out of doses.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Gauteng Health Department “noted the overwhelming demand for vaccines at various vaccination sites by healthcare workers.”

“The current available stock under the Sisonke early access programme is only sufficient to accommodate people who have already been issued with vouchers and appointments,” the department wrote.

To address the escalated demand, approved registrants will be allowed to get inoculated during next week’s Phase 1B drive which will prioritise South African citizens aged 60 and above.

However, in some instances, it seems that healthcare workers in the private sector have used nepotist means to allegedly get non-HCW close friends and relatives in the early access queues.

These testimonies, provided by a number of anonymous sources who allegedly witnessed the shenanigans at different vaccine centres and private companies, could be the root cause of the sudden increase in vaccine demand that’s left hundreds of qualifying frontline healthcare workers without a jab and exposed to infection.

At the time this article was published, the national health department had not responded to our queries on the allegations.