MEDIA RELEASE: 04 December 2020
SOUTH AFRICA’S ACCESS TO COVID-19 VACCINES
As announced by his excellency President MC Ramaphosa, South Africa remains a member state of the COVAX facility and still holds its strategic position as co-chair of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), of which COVAX is a major component.
We have taken the advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Vaccines, which recommended participation in the COVAX Facility as a means to gain access to vaccines rapidly in order to vaccinate at least 10% of South Africa’s population. Initially, the supply of vaccines will be constrained and we will need to apply some criteria to prioritise those who should be eligible for vaccination, for example, those at high risk of exposure such as our frontline health care workers and the medically vulnerable.
The COVAX facility is favoured because it has been constructed to pool resources though a collaborative effort- in this case over 187 countries have committed to this initiative. This type of financial conglomeration enables us to negotiate reduced prices. There are currently 11 vaccines that have advanced to phase 3 clinical trials; of these 9 have entered into a partnership with COVAX. This gives member states confidence that they will be able to access successful candidates and this also reduces the incumbent risks of bilateral agreements.
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.
In order to secure enough doses to vaccinate 10% of our population, we will be required to make a down payment of ZAR 327 118 080, of which the Solidarity Fund has generously agreed to make this initial contribution. We are concluding the memorandum of understanding between the Solidarity Fund and the National Department of Health in the next few days.
The full cost of purchasing the doses required is estimated at ZAR 2 156 934 840. 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.
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.
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.
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.
For Further Queries
Dr Lwazi Manzi
MLO Ministry of Health