SADC convenes Extraordinary Meeting of Ministers of Health

(L)Professor Douto Armindo Daniel Tiago, Minister of Health of the Republic of Mozambique, and (R) SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

The Ministers of Health of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 11th May 2021, held a virtual meeting to discuss the COVID-19 epidemiological situation in the Region and come up with recommendations to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

In a statement issued by SADC, the meeting was chaired by Minister of Health of the Republic of Mozambique, Hon. Professor Tiago in his capacity as the Chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee on Health.

Tiago said despite the efforts and progress made in the Member States so far in relation to COVID-19, there is still a need to strengthen and reinforce joint plans to ensure the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as to sustain the gains achieved in the Region. 

SADC Executive Secretary, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said while the COVID-19 general outlook in the SADC Region has been steadily improving, the trajectory of the outbreak remains unpredictable. She noted a decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19, except in few States.

The organization urged members to continue strengthening existing disease control activities, including epidemiological surveillance, strategic testing, and increase routine systematic sequencing of representative samples of SARS-CoV-2 isolates from across the country whenever possible.

SADC executive also requested Member States to share information on the types of vaccine and numbers of doses they are receiving from suppliers in order to strengthen vaccine coverage monitoring in the Region through the Secretariat for wider dissemination.

Among the issues discussed was strengthening the Regulatory Capacity of National Regulatory Agencies (NRA) to conduct vaccine assessment and issue emergency use authorisations; and to proactively build and maintain trust in the COVID-19 vaccine by engaging communities in order to mitigate the increasing mistrust and vaccine hesitancy as part of the pandemic response.

They called upon Member States to vaccinate SADC citizens residing within their territories including, but not limited to diplomats, migrants, students and those residing along the borders.

Ministers of Health proposed Member States to continue using COVID-19 Test Certificates to allow a smooth and gradual resumption for all economic activities and ensure non-discrimination until Herd Immunity is reached for all Member States, and gradually move towards the vaccine certificates.

The Ministers also requested the World Health Organisation to help Member States to track and tackle new variants by helping to build and boost complex genomic surveillance capacities needed to detect and respond to new variants, shipping samples to sequencing laboratories and providing supplies, technical guidance and financial support to countries for laboratory equipment.