President Cyril Ramaphosa says details of the deals into which the government enters with vaccine manufacturers will be released as and when negotiations are concluded and when non-disclosure agreement terms have been lifted.
Ramaphosa acknowledged concern that the government has not been sufficiently transparent about its efforts to procure Covid-19 vaccines.
He said as they did with the announcement about the Serum Institute of India (SSI), the details of deals with manufacturers will be released when negotiations are concluded.
Writing in his weekly newsletter published on Monday, Ramaphosa said this was commonplace in such circumstances, and most governments have had to comply with similar restrictions.
“We recognise it is important that the public must be kept abreast of developments on vaccine acquisition at all times,” he said.
The president said it was also important for the government to be held to account for all decisions it makes in this regard.
“Freedom of speech and open public debate are cornerstones of our democracy, as is the media’s right to scrutinise and interrogate all government’s policies and decisions.”
Ramaphosa claimed that throughout the pandemic, his government has been open and transparent with South Africans on the health measures taken to secure the people’s safety.
“We have sought to explain all our decisions, to listen to people’s concerns and to continuously update the country on the state of the disease. When it comes to fighting a deadly pandemic like this, honesty and trust are just as valuable as any vaccine,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the government has already embarked on an extensive communications campaign, through government communications, to educate people about the Covid-19 vaccine, and to challenge many of the misconceptions in circulation.
He said everyone needed to be part of this national effort and not allow the spread of rumours, fear and mistrust. False information and fake news can and does put lives at risk, said Ramaphosa.
“We all need to work together to build confidence in the vaccine, to demonstrate its effectiveness and its safety and to emphasise its vital importance in overcoming this deadly disease.
“For its part, government will work to improve all its channels of communication, to keep the public regularly informed on the development of the vaccination programme, to provide information that is accurate and factual, and to continue to engage with and listen to the broad range of voices in our society.”
Ramaphosa said the first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines from the SSI were due to arrive soon.
He said this will signal the start of a mass vaccination campaign, the most ambitious and extensive in SA’s history.
A comprehensive rollout strategy and an accompanying logistical framework will be implemented in partnership with the private sector, civil society, traditional leadership, the religious sector and others, he said.
“It is vital this is a society-wide campaign in which everyone is involved and no-one is left behind,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the doses South Africa will receive through its participation in multilateral initiatives, together with the agreements being made directly with manufacturers, will ensure the country has sufficient vaccines to contain the spread of the coronavirus.