DA reiterates call to Minister Didiza and OBP to outsource AHS vaccine production

Issued by Noko Masipa MP and Bronwynn Engelbrecht MPL –
24 Sep 2023 in News

This past week the DA met with the horse farming community members in Kyalami to hear their concerns regarding African horse sickness (AHS) vaccine shortages and provide them with feedback on what the DA has done to solve their problems.

This public meeting was also attended by Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) Chief Executive Officer, Luvuyo Mabombo and his executive team to account and provide feedback to farmers. OBP indicated that their vaccine target production is 90 000 doses by the end of October annually, and thus far, they have only reached 65% of that target.

The farmers’ concerns included, amongst others, poor distribution channels, back-dated and outstanding orders longer than two years that have not been fulfilled and poor communication in this regard. Moreover, during the meeting, the veterinary doctors assisting rural horse farmers alleged that during the AHS outbreak, rural horse farmers also experienced increased livestock theft due to the lack of horses to patrol their livestock.

As a result of the vaccine shortage, many farmers lost their horses to AHS, a controllable disease, indicating that the state is empowered to implement control measures through vaccination. However, through its sole producer, OBP, the government has failed to timeously provide sufficient vaccines for the high demand. In some instances, there were just no vaccines received by farmers and veterinary doctors, resulting in the death of hundreds of horses, many of them from top breeding races, used in racing or show jumping.

Answers provided by OBP during the session left much to be desired, however, they have committed to attending to the distribution channel, poor communication, and over-pricing challenges.

The DA will continue to hold OBP and the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms Thoko Didiza, to account for issues raised by the farming communities. The DA’s call continues to fall on Minister Didiza and OBP’s deaf ears to outsource the production of AHS vaccine strains to the private sector to ensure that vaccines are produced and available in required quantities on time and improve the distribution channels to ensure all farmers receive vaccines on time.

Section 2(a) of the Onderstepoort Biological Products Incorporation Bill of 1999 makes provision for the board of directors to alter the share capital of the company as contemplated in section 75 (1) and (2) of the Companies Act. However, the Minister and OBP board of directors continue to fail the farmers because they don’t have the guts to do it.

The DA petition, which was launched this year and submitted to parliament, did not serve before the committee. The DA firmly believes that the solution to the problem of vaccine shortage lies in the increased involvement of the private sector in the production and distribution of vaccines to do away with the current bottleneck being experienced by OBP.

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