South Africa will probably take its first delivery of coronavirus vaccines by the middle of next year after agreeing on an initial payment, the health ministry said.
The government will take delivery of the vaccines under the Covax initiative that will cover about 10% of the population after Solidarity Fund, a charity organisation, agreed to make an initial payment of about R327 million ($22 million), the ministry said in a statement. The total cost of the vaccines could amount to more than R2 billion.
The World Health Organisation-backed Covax initiative aspires to give lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations.
“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 ministry said.
South Africa is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases in some districts just as millions of people prepare to travel to their home towns and holiday destinations during the festive season.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday reintroduced restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus in Nelson Mandela Bay, the nation’s sixth-largest city, with a population of 1.3 million people.
About 805,804 people have been diagnosed with the disease in South Africa so far and 21,963 have died, according to government figures. On Friday, 4,932 new cases were detected, Zweli Mkhize, the health minister said.
The government is also considering buying vaccines from other potential producers, including Johnson & Johnson, Novavax Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and the Pfizer Inc and BioNtech partnership.
It needs to ensure it has funds and resources for the distribution, storage and administration of the vaccines, the ministry said.
“While the Covax facility is our favored vehicle for accessing vaccines, we will always explore all options to ensure that the process of rolling out vaccines is safe and cost-effective,” it said.