A statement is making the rounds on social media appearing to be from Instituto do Coração (ICOR) (a private and humanitarian health entity that specialises in the prevention research and treatment of cardiovascular diseases) alerting its employees and their family members of the availability of a vaccine against Covid-19.
It is very positive that ICOR purchases medicines for its employees and their family members, but the measure still raises some questions.
This raises many questions about the role of private providers in the plan presented by the Prime Minister on 5th of March. Where do ICOR vaccines come from for their employees and family members?
ICOR promises to mobilize vaccines for employees free of charge, but that the values for vaccines of their immediate family members will be at the employee’s expense. In a time of pandemic, can private or non-governmental organisations purchase vaccines outside the central circuit, that is, government? What impacts does this have on the issue of equity in the acquisition and distribution of vaccines?
If clinics and private hospitals have the capacity to purchase vaccines for their employees’ immediate relatives, it follows that they may also have the capacity to obtain vaccines and offer them for sale.
And if this is the direction that ICOR, for example, will take, will the country not be experiencing vaccine Apartheid, one for the rich who will jump the queue and another for others without other resources apart from depending on the National Health System? And what then is the role of the Mozambican State in ensuring equitable access?
Even if its is not apparent, there is a high demand for vaccines but with limited supply. It is precisely for this reason that in other countries, such as neighbouring South Africa, the battle has always been to have a Single Plan for Equitable and Effective Access for the acquisition and distribution of vaccines. As such, government cannot wash its hands and let market forces solve the problem of access.
Any efforts by the private health sector to acquire vaccines must be made in the context of a Single Plan for Equitable Access, in order to ensure that, in the context of the pandemic, all recipients can access vaccines, where access is not based on medical insurance schemes.
More than ever, Mozambique needs to reprieve important principles such as social solidarity. It is through solidarity between Mozambicans, where no one jumps any queue and does not get the vaccine before their turn comes, and where all the vaccine that comes in is through the Single Plan, that the country will be able to achieve the herd immunity, in accordance to the principles of public health, that is, every Mozambican will be protected when everyone else is protected.
For the Observatório do Cidadão para Saúde (OCS), it is necessary for the government to clarify how it intends to deal with the acquisition and allocation of the vaccine in the private sector. If there is not yet a plan that takes the sector into account, there is a whole need to promptly review the situation.
Furthermore, apart from the benefits that such a strategy can bring to the country, it can also help to close the pockets of corruption that have been observed in the context of collection and testing of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.