DA Shadow Minister on party’s Covid-19 vaccination stance, ANC’s pandemic response and NHI

Despite increasing reports relating to vaccine injuries and deaths and widespread data which has reliably brought the safety of Covid-19 vaccines into question, the DA has continued to push for higher vaccine uptake by the South African population. To find out how the DA justifies their unwavering stance in respect of Covid-19 vaccination, BizNews spoke to DA Shadow Minister of Health Michéle Clarke. In addition, Clarke clarified the DA’s position in respect of the proposed NHI Bill. – Nadya Swart

Excerpts from the interview with Michéle Clarke

Michéle Clarke on the DA’s Covid-19 vaccination stance

The DA has always taken a strong stance on supporting and advocating for Covid-19 vaccinations. But we are opposed to mandatory vaccination as it infringes on people’s liberties and their rights and, therefore, it should be entirely up to you to take the vaccine as a person. And we strongly believe that this policy should be informed by public health experts as well.

On the DA’s continued insistence that Covid-19 vaccine uptake should be ramped up despite growing evidence bringing the safety of Covid-19 vaccines into question

We do put pressure on the Minister of Health in order to address these issues, and we are aware of the two deaths that have occurred and are waiting for the committee to serve the reports to the committee. But I must say, we also believe that the ANC doesn’t necessarily take professional health experts advice on board. They’ve got some really good professional people on that committee, like Professor Glenda Gray, Professor Madhi etc. When the proposed amendments on the Health Act surfaced, we were very against those amendments because they were so stringent and we just believed that we were in an environment that didn’t need those stringent regulations.

Professor Madhi had said that we have 84% herd immunity in this country and, in actual fact, the cloth masks and the masks that people just buy from stores are actually not safe to wear in any case, unless they’ve got the surgical masks. So, for a long time the health professionals have been advising the Minister, but I don’t think they always take that advice on board, and I think that’s the problem. So, we’ve had 68 claims in respect of vaccines where people have had serious concerns. There’s been 68 eligible individuals that have put claims in and that has been sent to the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee.

But many of those claims weren’t serious and only serious claims will be compensated. And that’s the report we’ve asked for in terms of questions to the Minister, so that we can see how many serious claims there are not with the compensation rate around that. But if you take the 68 claims that have been submitted and you look at the South African population, the instances of serious side effects at this stage is quite low. But we would not want to see one claim, obviously, and that is something that needs to be investigated and a report needs to be served to us from the Minister.

On the reasons behind the DA’s stance against the implementation of NHI

So, firstly it should be made very clear that the DA supports universal health care 100%. In fact, if you look at the DA’s own health policy to implement universal health care in a manner that will not unduly burden the taxpayer or alienate the public health sector, that’s a very big concern. The private health sector provides a 4% ratio to GDP and you can’t just destroy that in the economy of South Africa. However, in no way or form do we support the NHI.

And while the intention of the bill might be laudable, the execution cannot possibly succeed and will decimate the already crumbling health sector. And there are huge reasons around this. Firstly, we found that a large section of the NHI Bill is unconstitutional. And we have had a lot of input from our legal team in terms of that. You can’t force people to follow government regulations in terms of their healthcare. You know, people should have a choice. And the NHI Bill is going to make it extremely difficult for people to have that choice. So, that’s one aspect.

The second aspect is the huge power the Minister of Health exercises within this bill. So, he’s the judge and the jury in terms of every aspect of setting up these structures. That is a huge concern for us and we just wonder how transparent the funding will be managed during this bill because, just remember, the NHI Bill is just another SOE and we all know what’s happened in Eskom, Denel, SAA and the likes of that.

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