Treasury to fund Covid-19 vaccines
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Cape Town – In an effort to allay fears over funding concerns of the Covid-19 vaccines, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize this week said the procurement of the vaccines would be financed largely from the fiscus.
Mkhize said this when he briefed the health portfolio committee on the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plan and announced that South Africa reached an agreement with the Serum Institute of India wherein one million doses of vaccine will be available in January and another 500 000 in February.
“We have had lots of discussions with the minister of finance to say that the fiscus is going to carry the major burden of having to procure the vaccines.
"In the process, we have also agreed that we will look at and activate other means of raising additional funds which will be to approach the medical schemes and ask them to make a contribution and cross-subsidize some members of the public," he said.
"The third is to get donors and businesses to make their own contribution and this could be worked together with the Solidarity Fund," Mkhize added.
There was outrage after glitches were experienced in the payment of the R283 million deposit on the CoVax Vaccine Facility, resulting in the deadline being missed twice.
This had prompted the DA to submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act application to obtain detail on the procurement process and how the government intended to safeguard procurement funds, among other things.
EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu had written to committee chairperson Sibongiseni Dlomo asking that Mboweni and the National treasury be invited to the Thursday meeting, but their request could not be processed.
Speaking at the meeting, EFF MP Susan Thembekwayo said the reason the reason they needed Mboweni, who had a bereavement in his family, and his department was for them to engage on all questions pertaining to the vaccine funding.
Mkhize said the National Treasury has allocated an amount for the procurement, but it was not fixed at the moment.
"They come to the party to say they are working with health to make sure health requirements for funding will be covered and health will deal with all logistics, procurement and so on.
"We are to have a special dispensation that is to allow deviation so that different manufacturers can be engaged as we are currently engaging them."
The minister would not say what the amount was.
"We are not at liberty to release any kind of figures here. All I can say between us and the National Treasury, the funds we need to procure the vaccines will be made available," the minister said when pressed on the amount budgeted to ensure all South Africans have access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
Mkhize also said the government would be sole purchaser of the Covid-19 vaccines for the country.
"The national Department of Health will contract with suppliers to purchase stock and allocate it to provincial health departments and the private sector."
But AfriForum and Solidarity have announced that they have instructed their legal team to prepare a case challenging the government’s proposed monopoly on the buying and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
Asked about the hopes of the Western Cape to procure a vaccine, Mkhize said the province indicated that they were ready to deal with the vaccine.
“We convened the whole National Health Council with all provinces and agreed on the approach that we are to secure the procurement centrally.
"That is mainly because most of the manufacturers would rather deal with governments. We will do central procurement to cover the country as it were," he said.