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Health Dept says it is working to pay affordable rates for COVID-19 vaccines

South Africa was left scrambling to source COVID-19 vaccines after failing to timeously place orders with manufacturers.

An NHS pharmacy technician holds a vial as she simulates the preparation of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine during a staff training session ahead of the vaccine's rollout on 8 December 2020. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Health Department said that it was working to pay affordable vaccine rates for the country, given the severe constraints to the fiscus.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that South Africa has procured about 1.5 million doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India.

The AstraZeneca vaccines which have been earmarked for frontline workers are expected to arrive in the country between the end of this month and February.

South Africa was left scrambling to source COVID-19 vaccines after failing to timeously place orders with manufacturers.

The Bussiness Day is reporting that government has agreed to pay the Serum Institute about R78 per dose - that's more than double the price the EU negotiated directly with AstraZeneca last year.

However, Director-General at the Health Department, Sandile Buthelezi said that he could not confirm this.

"The spread with the vaccines, there's one that goes up to $30 per dose. We've done some actuarial work and we believe that if we need to vaccinate all South Africans, it will cost us just above R20 billion."

Buthelezi said that the first 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would arrive on home soil next week Friday.

"We're expecting the first shipment on the 29th of this month. We had confirmation yesterday."

Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde insists that the province can legally procure its own COVID-19 vaccines.

National government wants to centralise the process but it's been slammed for not acting quicker to get its hands on inoculations.

Winde said that demand would outstrip supply: "We've already seen that the supply we are getting as a country doesn't look good, it looks like we're not going to get sufficient vaccines this whole year. So, I've got to try and find other supplies. I must say that, number one, our own procurement processes have to be finalised."

And so, he adds that his administration is moving to obtain a vaccine.

"As a province, we have a co-constitutional mandate, there's a co-competency between national government and provincial government. We have a health department and so it makes sense. Legally, we've had a look at it and it says that we can procure."

He said that the Cape would need around 4 million doses for all of its residents.

Additional reporting by Regan Thaw.

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