REACTION: South African court orders COVID contracts disclosure
South African court orders disclosure of COVID-19 vaccine contracts
Release date: 17 August 2023
The high court in South Africa has ordered the government to disclose its COVID-19 contracts with pharmaceutical companies. Documents regarding the procurement and price of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in South Africa have so far been kept secret.
The case was brought by Health Justice Initiative, a South African health campaign group, who argued that the government had not met its constitutional requirement for transparency in procurement contracts.
The government has 10 days to disclose any COVID-19 vaccine negotiation contracts, meeting notes, and correspondence with any vaccine manufacturer or licensee, including with Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Aspen Pharmacare, Sinovac, and the Seum Institute of India, as well as bodies including Gavi/COVAX, the African Union Vaccine Access Task Team, and The Solidarity Fund.
Responding to the news, Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Policy co-lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:
“Pharmaceutical companies should never be allowed to operate without public scrutiny, particularly in a pandemic. But in South Africa and many other countries, governments were forced to sign up to strict secrecy clauses for their populations to access lifesaving vaccines and medicines.
“This landmark decision shows that the public can take on powerful pharmaceutical companies and win. We hope to see more cases like this around the world.
“Transparency and equity must be at the heart of the world’s response to health crises. People have a right to know how much pharmaceutical companies are charging them for lifesaving vaccines and medicines. And that right must be enshrined in the Pandemic Accord and the International Health Regulations.”
Tian Johnson, Chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa, said:
“The core of this judgment affirms our rights as Africans to not only hold those who claim the title of “leader” accountable but also reminds us that the urgent work of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response can only happen with openness, transparency and a wilful and conscious effort to recognise civil society as critical accountability partners. The work to realise our dignity as Africans will only be complete when transparency and openness is our default. The work of the HJI in this regard has shifted the needle closer to the health justice that is our birthright.”
Notes to editors
Health Justice Initiative announced the ruling on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HealthJusticeIn/status/1692065251435454795
The Judgement and court papers are available here: https://healthjusticeinitiative.org.za/pandemic-transparency/?s=08
Joe Karp-Sawey, senior media advisor, People’s Vaccine Alliance