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MPS DIVIDED OVER COVID-19 VACCINE

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MBABANE – Although they all agree that the COVID-19 vaccine is necessary, Members of Parliament (MPs) have different views on how the process should be implemented. 

While some feel that it should not be compulsory others are of the view that it will, by extension be mandatory, for example, if people want to undertake external trips. 

The MPs are, however, of the view that government through the Ministry of Health, should make a proper presentation on which vaccine would be administered in Eswatini, its safety and reliability because there have been many theories about the vaccines, some of which make them personally uncomfortable. 

Ndzingeni MP Lutfo Dlamini, when interviewed yesterday, said government had already taken a decision that the vaccine would be made available for emaSwati. 

He said it would be up to the individual whether they choose to take it or not. 

The MP said this was what he was currently obtaining on the ground and he would encourage people of his constituency to be at the forefront to take the vaccine. 

“After all, there is no vaccine which promises eternal life,” said Dlamini. He said without the vaccine, there would be absolute chaos. Dlamini was also of the view that for international travel, some countries may demand that people should be vaccinated.

“I think it is a good decision and I would like to thank the donors who have also pledged their assistance,” said Dlamini. He said he would be in the forefront should the vaccine be available. 

Meanwhile, Lobamba Lomdzala MP Marwick Khumalo, said the vaccine should not be mandatory and that people should be given a choice. 

“This is a vaccine which enters the bloodstream and it is very different from the  bans which government imposes, such as the restriction of liquor sales and closing shops,” said MP Khumalo.

Horror

The MP said vaccination was a different ball game, particularly because of the horror stories they had heard about some of them. He said the social media posts about how some prominent individuals in the globe wanted to test it on Africans were shocking. 

The MP said the Ministry of Health had to clearly come out and state which vaccine would be given to Eswatini and if their own experts had tested it and whether it was safe. “We can’t just be vaccinated because it is from overseas,” he said. He further said the World Health Organisation (WHO) also needed to come out clear on the vaccines. Khumalo further added that even in the First World countries, the vaccine was not mandatory although the citizens were encouraged to take it. 

Mhlangatane MP Madala Mhlanga said they needed to know government’s stance on the issue. 

He said government must be clear on the planned rollout of the vaccine. 

“Probably, Sibaya would give a much clearer way forward or as MPs we must have a picture,” he said. 

He stated that as emaSwati and a Christian nation, it was important to seek God’s intervention and guidance on this one as the nation could not ignore all the conspiracy theories circulating. 

Ludzeludze MP Vusi Swali, said he thought this was a wait and see situation. 

“We do rely on our health experts  and we trust the WHO will advise on measures to be followed since this kind of situation is a first. Yes, we need the vaccine as of yesterday, but certain misconceptions and theories about the vaccine have not been cleared,” he said. 

He said as a result, it was, therefore, difficult to make an informed decision at the moment with the ongoing research on the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, Manzini North MP Macford Sibandze said people were now living in the big world of information and were in panic mode, full of uncertainty.

“If that was not the case, I would have said it has to be compulsory for all, but I cannot, so I go with the notion of autonomy that people should be free to say yes or no to it. We are in the middle of a pharmaceutical war as was the case with ARVs and the eyes of the world market will not be in the deaths but the market,” he said. 

Accessible

Sibandze said government must assure the nation of its choice and if it was the right one, government must make sure that it was easily accessible to all. 

He said he wished he was in Parliament to debate the issue, but unfortunately the role of Parliament in the face of disaster was not stipulated.

“But all in all, I am saying the vaccination has to be available to all, but people do not have to be forced to use it,” he said.

He said this was because people were not the same, had different beliefs in religion and social affiliations. 

“There are people who would rather die than kutsi bafutse (steam),” he said.  

Motshane MP Robert Magongo said if the vaccine was made for people to survive, then everyone should take it. However, he was of the view that WHO needed to give more clarity on the vaccines because there were many theories. 

Cliques

Gege MP Musa Kunene said everyone should have access to the vaccine, instead of giving it to different cliques. He said choosing a certain group would not save the country, more so because people could get infected more than once. 

Meanwhile, the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi, said they would definitely make a presentation to Parliament even though they were still on recess. 

She said the country was still under an emergency. Nkosi said they were in discussion with Covax as well as the other different approved vaccine candidates to see what was available and when.

Government has set aside about E200 million for the purchase of the vaccine, while His Majesty King Mswati III urged emaSwati to cooperate with the Ministry of Health once the vaccine was available.  



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