The Minerals Council South Africa has pledged its support for government’s vaccine roll-out programme, stating that access to an effective vaccine will help reopen the economy and save lives and livelihoods.
The council’s members, alongside Business Unity South Africa and Business for South Africa, are developing plans to assist in the vaccine roll-out using the mining sector’s significant healthcare infrastructure and delivery capability.
At this stage, only governments are able to source vaccines from international suppliers. However, while government is primarily responsible for funding the vaccine rollout and is the single buyer, the industry can play a material role in accelerating the vaccination programme on mines and in mining communities.
Minerals Council president Mxolisi Mgojo notes that there was unanimous support by council board members during a meeting held on January 11 to support the urgent roll-out of the vaccine according to principles of clinical risk and societal impact, with a clear intention of ensuring that, as the vaccine becomes more freely available, mining employees and communities are able to access vaccines in line with their risk profiles as quickly as possible.
Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter explains that, while many sectors are questioning the slow progress of government securing a major bilateral vaccine deal, the council is aware that government is not only seeing the urgent securing of a vaccine as a national priority, but also recognises that it is their responsibility at a public healthcare level to guarantee the funding.
“So far, government has only secured the Covax allocation – covering 5.9-million people, and more recently the 1.5-million Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines for frontline healthcare workers – covering 750 000 people.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that government is close to securing another 20-million vaccines. Given challenges in the public healthcare infrastructure, there is no doubt that business and the mining sector, in particular, can play a major role in the end-to-end planning and roll-out of the vaccine programme to assist government and the nation.
“Cooperative partnerships and urgency are key,” Baxter adds.