Phaahla forced to court over vaccine secrets

RAY HARTLE

The Health Justice Initiative is taking Minister of Health Joe Phaahla to court for full disclosure on how South Africa procured 38 million Covid-19 vaccine dosages, which cost up to R10 billion, based on national budget allocations.

The matter is being heard in the Gauteng high court and follows the national department of health’s (NDoH) 2021 refusal to disclose information under a PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) request to access the vaccine procurement contracts.

HJI says the case is about the secrecy which enveloped the vaccine procurement process at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, involving the South African government and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

The NGO wants government to disclose records relating to the procurement, which involved buying directly from pharmaceutical companies, through the COVAX facility, and donations.

HJI says the content of these agreements “including the complete details of the contracting parties is unknown and remains a secret”.

The HJI believes that at the very least, contracts must have at least been entered into with the SA government and Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer as these are the vaccines South Africa is administering in the national vaccine rollout programme. 

“These vaccines have been procured at great cost. The actual cost has not been disclosed, although the 2021 National Budget allocated an amount of R10-billion for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.”

HJI wants the court to order the NDoH to release all vaccine procurement contracts, memoranda of understanding, minutes and outcomes of negotiation meeting outcomes, agreements and related documents, with the following entities:

Janssen Pharmaceuticals / Johnson & Johnson; Aspen Pharmacare; Pfizer; Serum Institute of India / Cipla; Sinovac / Coronavac; Any other vaccine manufacturer / licensee; the African Union Vaccine Access Task Team (AU AVATT); ‘COVAX’ (with the Global Vaccine Alliance – GAVI / other; The Solidarity Fund.

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Phaahla forced to court over vaccine secrets
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