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No, South African president Ramaphosa did not say Covid-19 vaccine mandatory

This article is more than 3 years old

A Facebook post published on 21 November 2020 claims that “Cyril-the-squirrel” has said that “you don’t have a choice about whether you will or won’t have the Covid-19 vaccine”. 

It includes a low-resolution photo that appears to show a live TV broadcast aired on South African news channel eNCA. It shows South African president Cyril Ramaphosa facing the camera directly, above a banner that reads “Ramaphosa: All Must Get The Vaccine”.

The post implies that Ramaphosa announced that vaccinations against Covid-19 will be made compulsory for all South Africans. 

At the time of writing the post had been viewed over 31,100 times and further reposted as a screenshot. But is it accurate?

Ramaphosa called for all countries to have access to vaccine

Included in the banner across the TV screen in the photo is the phrase “G20 Leadership Summit”. 

Ramaphosa addressed world leaders during the annual G20 Leadership Summit which was held virtually in November 2020 and hosted by the Saudi Arabian presidency. 

Ramaphosa’s 21 November address was broadcast live. The eNCA broadcast is available on their website and shows that the photo of the TV screen has not been manipulated

But Ramaphosa said that all countries should have access to the vaccine, not that the vaccine should be made compulsory for all people, or all South Africans. 

“Another immediate task is to ensure that there is equitable and affordable access for all countries to the Covid-19 vaccine once it is developed,” Ramaphosa said. He then asked all G20 members to assist with funding access to the vaccine. 

Low-income countries potentially left behind

There are currently over 100 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of development. Some, such as the Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer candidate vaccines, have already shown over 90% efficacy rates during their trial stages. 

The World Health Organization, or WHO, estimates that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution by early to mid 2021.

In early November 2020 a report was published by the Duke University Global Health Institute which indicated that low-income countries might be left behind in accessing Covid-19 vaccines. 

According to the report, high income countries such as the US and UK have already secured 3.8 billion doses of candidate vaccines with options of another 5 billion ahead of a vaccine even being approved. 

The Global Health Institute researchers concluded this could mean high income countries would be able to vaccinate their entire populations many times over before lower income countries were able to access the vaccine. 

This could leave lower income countries, particularly those in Africa, waiting until as late as 2024 to access the vaccine. 

Covax is a coalition created by pharmaceutical company Gavi, and the WHO, among other bodies to distribute accessible and affordable Covid-19 vaccines to people across the world. South Africa is one of 172 countries that has agreed to participate in Covax. 

Ramaphosa did not claim that all South Africans will be forced to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available. He urged world leaders to ensure that all countries have access to the vaccine once it is approved. 

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