Talks of Covid-19 vaccine nepotism spark outrage
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.
Someone who wishes to remain anonymous DMed me the following information about what happened at Mitchell’s Plain Hospital yesterday. If anyone else was there, could you verify? And if this was how events unfolded, what does @WesternCapeGov have to say about it? pic.twitter.com/lVOasI3C6v— Robyn Porteous (@RobynPorteous) May 13, 2021
Someone else has come forward (also requesting that they remain anonymous) to confirm that a Whatsapp was sent around from an “insider of Western Cape Health Department”. The plot thickens. Are you aware of this, @WestCapeHealth/@WesternCapeGov? pic.twitter.com/ZYCFNovlX3— Robyn Porteous (@RobynPorteous) May 13, 2021
Another source has shared this text that was allegedly sent to all HCW in Nelson Mandela Bay who were supposed to be vaccinated from Tuesday this week.— Robyn Porteous (@RobynPorteous) May 13, 2021
Can you verify this, @echealthdept? Are you aware of this @HealthZA? pic.twitter.com/5z4Imaw03D
And as if any of us are really surprised, it seems that private companies have been dipping their grubby fingers into the vaccine mix.— Robyn Porteous (@RobynPorteous) May 13, 2021
What the f*ck is going on even?! pic.twitter.com/sC7opYP62f
This isn’t the only person to have mentioned this specific company to me. There have been a few. So, it seems @Discovery_SA has some explaining to do. Why are your employees getting vaccinated?@HealthZA why are you allowing this? @DrZweliMkhize https://t.co/UPmrc7bbgk pic.twitter.com/Vm5zV51xa6— Robyn Porteous (@RobynPorteous) May 13, 2021
At the time this article was published, the national health department had not responded to our queries on the allegations.