South Africa may have missed the initial payment deadline, but on Tuesday, the Department of Health confirmed that they had paid almost $20 million to the COVAX initiative – a fee which secures SA’s entry into the coveted programme, and eases concerns over the government’s ability to distribute a vaccine in 2021.
The payment accounts for 15% of the total cost it will require to secure six million doses of a COVID-19 vaccination. The first jabs will see one in ten South Africans immunised against coronavirus, and as the year progresses, that number will rise accordingly. The Health Department issued a statement earlier in the day, elaborating on the details of the deal:
“The National Department of Health and the Solidarity Fund is pleased to announce that the down payment of $19.2 million (amounted to R283 million at the exchange rate at the time of payment) has been made to GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance) to secure South Africa’s entry into the COVAX facility.”
“The payment was made in line with the Fund’s previous allocation to support the Government’s efforts to accelerate the roll-out of vaccines in South Africa. COVAX has confirmed South Africa’s entry into the facility. The down payment represents 15% of the total cost of securing access to vaccines for 10% (roughly 6 million) of the population.”
Health Department statement
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who has essentially been on the frontline of this pandemic, has hailed the breakthrough as a victory for ‘multi-sectoral collaboration’. He praised the teamwork displayed by the various parties involved in the COVAX agreement, describing the process as a ‘privilege to oversee’:
“It is a privilege to oversee a process that has brought together government, international partners, and business for the sole purpose of delivering quality health care to the people of South Africa.”
“This is what we have been advocating for when we speak of multi-sectoral collaboration – and it is gratifying to see this spirit being harnessed for the good of our people, Africans, and the global village.”