Covid-19 vaccines to cost SA R20bn

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SOUTH Africa laid out a long-awaited plan to distribute coronavirus vaccines, saying it will cost 20,6 billion rand ($1,4 billion) to inoculate two-thirds of the population and the State will be the sole purchaser.


The government will agree contracts with suppliers and allocate vaccines to regional authorities and the private sector, Health minister Zweli Mkhize said in a presentation to Parliament on Thursday.

The majority will come from AstraZeneca Plc, which has set a price of 54 rand each, compared with Moderna Inc’s 536 rand, he said.

The country will receive one million doses this month from The Serum Institute of India Ltd., which is producing the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, Mkhize said in a later statement. A further 500 000 will follow in February and be used to inoculate health workers.

The plan comes as the government faces mounting criticism by labour unions and health professionals over its lack of progress in procuring vaccines, with no supply deals signed with pharmaceutical companies even as several other countries start their programmes. Mkhize was speaking the day after South Africa reported a daily record of confirmed cases and deaths, and SA president Cyril Ramaphosa and other top officials are considering tightening lockdown measures.

Mkhize said about 67 percent of the population should be inoculated by the end of the year. The National Treasury will put up the majority of the cost, though the government will also look to raise funds and ask medical-insurance providers to contribute, he told lawmakers.

“We have had a lot of discussions with the minister of Finance that the fiscus will carry the major burden of having to procure the vaccines,” Mkhize said.

The government has said previously it expects to begin receiving shots in the second quarter of 2021 to cover a 10th of its about 60 million people through the Covax initiative, which is trying to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

South Africa plans to source about 70 percent of vaccines from AstraZeneca and 20 percent from Johnson & Johnson, which hasn’t yet gained regulatory approval but has agreed with Durban-based Aspen Pharmacare Ltd. to have its version manufactured in the country.

The balance will come from Moderna and Pfizer Inc., which Mkhize said is charging about 299 rand a dose, or about $20. A person familiar with the matter said earlier this week that the US firm has offered to charge $10.

Discovery Health Ltd., Africa’s biggest medical insurer, said on Wednesday it would pay for vaccines for as many people who don’t have coverage as it has members.

Mkhize’s plan will require about 6 300 full-time vaccinators, delivering 316 000 doses a day, he said. Health workers will be the first to receive doses, with the second phase prioritising essential workers and adults with co-morbidities, such as HIV, tuberculosis and obesity.

South Africa has the world’s highest number of HIV infections — almost 8 million. High obesity levels have boosted the number of diabetes sufferers, which make up about 13 percent of the population –— Bloomberg

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