Durban - The Solidarity Fund has committed to making a downpayment of more than R320 million to secure Covid-19 vaccinations for 10% of the country's population.
According to a statement by the National Health Ministry, the Fund will fork out R327 118 080 by next week.
"Having committed ourselves to this facility, we started engagements to refine a number of issues pertaining to the agreements we would need to enter into. We have been in close and constant dialogue with our partners at COVAX and, based on the ongoing negotiations, are on track to sign the agreement and make the first tranche of payment by 15 December 2020, as per the agreed timelines. In pursuit of this target, we are at advanced stages of concluding our internal processes," the Ministry said.
The full cost of purchasing the doses required is estimated at R2 156 934 840.
"There will be several factors that may alter this cost, most significantly the vaccine that we will ultimately purchase through this agreement. It is also important to understand that, aside from the costs of purchasing the vaccine, we also need to ensure we have the funds and resources secured for the actual distribution, storage and administration of the vaccine countrywide. Our understanding from the production estimates we have been provided with at this stage is that we should expect to receive the first batch of stock in quarter two of 2021," the statement read.
Some countries such as China and Russia have developed their own vaccines, while other countries have entered into bilateral agreements with individual companies. There are four candidate vaccines that have been studied in the South African population. These vaccines are produced by Astra Zeneca, Novavax, Johnson&Johnson and Pfizer/BioNTech. The other vaccines producers are also seeking to conduct trials in South Africa.
"We will be engaging these vaccine manufacturers to and we also wish to reassure South Africans that, while the COVAX Facility is our favoured vehicle for accessing vaccines, we will always explore all options to ensure that the process of rolling out vaccines is safe and cost effective," the Ministry said.
Before a vaccine can be rolled out the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) must assess the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine. None of the vaccine manufacturers have submitted their application dossiers to SAHPRA as yet.
"Nevertheless SAHPRA has committed to ensuring the expeditious evaluation of these vaccines once the dossiers have been received, through various mechanisms that will shorten the timeframe it usually takes to approve a product," the Ministry explained.
To support South Africa’s efforts to secure early access to, and delivery of, safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines and treatments as soon as they become available, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 Vaccines has been developing a strategy for the implementation of a Covid-19 vaccination rollout.
This strategy will include a review of available resources, services delivery platforms, and the required investment to ensure a successful administration to the selected priority groups.
Collaboration between the private and public health sectors will be key to the successful implementation of this life-saving intervention.