President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the Solidarity Fund will make an initial payment of R327 million towards the procurement of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“As we have said in the past the only viable defence we will have against Covid-19 will be the vaccine,” the president said in an address to the nation on Thursday evening (3 December).
It comes after the country recorded in excess of 4,000 new infections for a second consecutive day, with the rate spiking since the beginning of November in what has been deemed a second wave of the virus.
This has forced the president to announce new lockdown measures in Nelson Mandela Bay.
There are now many initiatives in the world to speed up the development of a vaccine, the president said.
“We continue to collaborate with our partners in the international community to ensure that all countries have access to an effective and affordable vaccine.”
Ramaphosa said that the country is participating in the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility – known as the Covax facility – which aims to pool resources and share vaccine development risk and thus ensure equitable access to vaccines when they become available.
“We are encouraged that the Solidarity Fund will be making the initial contribution of R327 million towards this vaccine procurement on behalf of our country.
“We are also encouraged by the promising results from three trials of candidate vaccines, which have shown efficacy levels of between 70 and 95%,” he said.
The president said the government will await confirmation from medicine regulators that these vaccines are safe, effective and suitable.
“In South Africa, our own Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will review the approval applications when received from the developers and authorise their use.
“But let us remember that until a vaccine is developed and distributed, we remain our own best protection against Covid-19,” Ramaphosa said.
He stressed that is through our everyday actions that the country’s citizens will stay safe. “It is through wearing a mask in public at all times.”
South Africa is hosting three trials, including for Johnson & Johnson and a partnership between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
The country confirmed last week that it plans to sign up to Covax, a global initiative that strives to ensure that poorer countries have access to shots, Bloomberg reported.
The National Treasury paid R500 million ($33 million) toward the programme and will need to find a further R4.5 billion to move to “the front of the queue,” finance minister Tito Mboweni said in an interview.
However, News24 reported that the country missed the first payment window to join Covax.
The proposal will initially provide doses for just 3% of South Africa’s population of about 59 million, according to Anban Pillay, deputy director general of the Department of Health, or 10% over the longer term.
The government has said that front-line health-care workers and the elderly will be given priority, meaning advance-purchase agreements with pharmaceutical companies will be needed to protect the wider community, Bloomberg said.
The UK became the first western country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, with its regulator clearing Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s shot ahead of decisions in the US and European Union.
The emergency authorisation clears the way for the deployment of a vaccine that Pfizer and its German partner have said is 95% effective in preventing illness.