As South Africa battles with a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in tighter lockdown restrictions, criticism has been levelled against the government for the slow pace of its vaccine rollout programme.
As of 28 June, only 2,8 million people have been vaccinated since the programme began on 17 February. Right now, government’s aim to have around 40 million people vaccinated by the end of the year, in order to achieve herd immunity, seems like a mere pipe dream.
That is why it is commendable that Sibanye Stillwater started vaccinating its employees this week.What makes this initiative even more laudable is the timeframe that it took to start the campaign. After receiving accreditation to administer the vaccines on 23 June and receiving its allocated vaccines a day later, the company was able to vaccinate 779 employees over a three-day period starting 25 June.
The mining sector has continually put up its hand to assist in getting more jabs in arms. The Minerals Council South Africa has confirmed the industry’s intention to support the vaccination of employees and community members. To date, 55 mining sites have applied to register as primary vaccination sites and a further 76 sites as secondary sites. These sites will cover around 433 000 employees.
The third wave has had debilitating effects and experts predict that it will worsen in the coming weeks. Therefore, it is crucial that government urgently clears the way for mining companies to commence their vaccine rollout programmes in order to save both lives and livelihoods.