SACC Statement on National Department of Health Coronavirus Vaccine Roll-out

The SACC is an instrument and servant of its members.

4 January 2021


Issued by the office of the SACC General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana

“Coronavirus Vaccine constitutes public good”

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) has received with relief, the news from the National Department of Health (NDoH) as announced by Minister Zwelini Mkhize, pertaining to the Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout Strategy.  We are firmly in the midst of the second wave of infections, categorised by in excess of 18 000 new cases each day, not to mention the rate of mortality of our people. There can be no doubt in the minds of any South African that an expedited process in the procurement and distribution of the vaccines is required.

We have been and continue on our Drive to Drive Down the Coronavirus infection rates through non-pharmaceutical measures and social behaviour change. In the short term, we must all commit to this without letting up. We must all continue to prioritise the correct and consistent wearing of cloth face-masks.  We must prioritise social distancing; hand hygiene must continue to be sustained; and we must ensure that rooms are well ventilated because the virus lingers in the air of our homes for hours, just like the odour of tobacco. 

However, we believe that the sustainable solution in the long term is adequate levels of population immunity that a vaccine can make possible to minimise infections.  While we understand that the Vaccine Rollout Strategy represents months of intense work from a research and development perspective, we appeal to Government to pull out all the stops to ensure urgent rollout of the vaccine, which is a public good.  It is cause for significant concern to think that we must continue to watch our people dying as we wait for the first confirmed COVAX vaccines to arrive in the county in the second quarter of the year.  If any other steps can be taken to bring vaccines into the country sooner, let there be no human hindrance to that process.

We, therefore, appeal to the public-private partnerships to prioritise the value of human life ahead of profits.  It would be disheartening for any partners to position themselves between the only solution available to South Africans to acquire large-scale immunity.  

We call on Government to engage with the pharmaceutical companies who have developed the vaccines, and negotiate for the reduction in costs and patent periods, without which South Africa and other developing countries may not be able to afford to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.  We strongly believe that commercial considerations should not override the value of human life, and this sets an urgent moral obligation at the doorstep of every pharmaceutical company and procurement entity.  God forbid that the thought of personal gain and inordinate profits would cross the minds of anyone in the supply chain in the roll-out of the vaccine!

As the Church, let us continue to stand in prayer for South Africa as instructed in Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  

As we await the phased roll-out of the vaccine, we call on all churches to sustain the campaign for non-pharmaceutical measures to limit the virus spread.  We should also be prepared to do without much of our customary social practices, including how we relate to death and bereavement, in order to prevent further deaths. These are the only measures we currently have, to keep the people safe as we await the roll-out of the vaccine over the coming months. 

Let us stand firm in the implementation of these measures, as they have the potential to save lives.