Johannesburg, Jul 6 (PTI) The South African government on Tuesday withdrew a circular authorising priority COVID-19 vaccines for senior politicians and their staff barely hours after it was issued.
The circular said that ministers, deputy ministers, premiers and Members of the Executive Council as well as their staff would be eligible to be vaccinated.
Insiders said that Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi was angered by the document that her department had circulated before she put out a message on Twitter.
“This was not authorised by the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Vaccine, which is the final decider on target population. I have consistently maintained that I will vaccinate when my age group population is opened, this (is) the stance by many of my colleagues. The circular has been withdrawn,” Kubayi tweeted.
The 16-member IMC was appointed by the government in January to advise the Cabinet on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout programme.
After first rolling out vaccinations to those over 60, it prioritised those over 50 last week. Teachers started receiving vaccinations a fortnight ago and police officials on Monday this week.
Amid daily rising infections and COVID-19 related deaths, the business sector has been pleading with the government to allow them to vaccinate their frontline workers such as cashiers and sales staff coming into direct contact with customers.
There was an immediate public anger after the ministry notice, which would have effectively allowed all politicians to jump the queue in the phased rollout of vaccines, was shared on social media.
“Was the Minister not privy to such an important document that her own department issued?” a Twitter user asked.
The department issued a second circular on Tuesday, withdrawing the initial one in its entirety.
“Following the circular on the vaccination of special groups and individuals against COVID-19 there have been numerous comments, queries and submissions that indicate that the circular is unclear in its intentions. The circular is withdrawn in its entirety,” the circular read.
The events unfolded as the South African government came under fire from many fronts, including leading health experts, on the slow rollout of vaccines as the third wave, fuelled by the Delta variant first found in India, continues to escalate. PTI FH CPS