Court Orders Health Department to Hand Over All COVID Vaccine Contract Info to NPO

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A nonprofit organization, the Health Justice Initiative (HJI), has won its legal challenge to compel government to disclose all Covid-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers and suppliers.

Key Points:

  • The Health Justice Initiative (HJI), a nonprofit organization, has won a legal challenge to compel the South African government to disclose all Covid-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers and suppliers.
  • The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla and the national Department of Health’s information officer must hand over the vaccine contract documents to HJI within 10 days of the judgment.
  • The HJI initiated legal proceedings after the health department rejected its application to access vaccine procurement contracts under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia).
  • The HJI argues that the public’s constitutional right to access information about public procurement has been violated due to the secrecy surrounding Covid-19 vaccine supply contracts.
  • The HJI seeks not only vaccine contracts and agreements with pharmaceutical companies but also negotiation meeting outcomes, minutes, and correspondence related to Covid-19 vaccines.
  • The health department had refused to provide the documents, citing reasons such as confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with pharmaceutical companies.
  • The court ruled that the refusal to grant access to the HJI was set aside and that there is a public interest in disclosing the vaccine contract documents.
  • The health department was ordered to pay the costs of the HJI’s application and to supply copies of all Covid-19 vaccine procurement contracts, memoranda of understanding, and agreements.
  • The ruling is seen as a victory for transparency and accountability, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and allegations of corruption and unfair pricing in vaccine procurement.
  • The Department of Health noted the court judgment and will study it before responding.
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