Solidarity Fund to chip R327 million into Covid-19 vaccine efforts, Ramaphosa says

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday evening that the Solidarity Fund has committed to pay a R327 million toward COVAX, a global Covid-19 vaccine access initiative.

The president was briefing the country on the latest developments in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic ahead of the busy December holiday period.

Ramaphosa said South Africa was participating in COVAX to "pool resources and share vaccine development risk and thus ensure equitable access to vaccines when they become available".

COVAX is an initiative managed by the Global Vaccine Alliance, GAVI, and the World Health Organisation. "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 percent," said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa's announcement in the wake a News24 report that South Africa missed an initial payment deadline to secure its participation in COVAX. The president did not refer to this in his address. 

News24 reported on Thursday that South Africa, considered a self-financing country in terms of the COVAX facility, needed to have made a 15% down payment by 9 October. The remaining 85% would need to be secured with a government guarantee. Initially, it was reported that South Africa would seek to cover 10% of its population with the COVAX facility, and would focus those doses on frontline workers and healthcare workers. 

On Thursday however, Bloomberg quoted national health department deputy director general Dr Anban Pillay, who said the envisaged coverage through COVAX was 3% of the population. 

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni last week said the country has committed R500 million to be part of a consortium, making it one of the first few emerging market countries to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, Fin24 previously reported. 

Ramaphosa said South Africa had suffered a total of 21 803 known Covid-19 related deaths, and while new infections had for some time been stable at around 2000 a day, infections had again started to rise. The president warned that the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape have seen an increase in deaths and transmissions.This as there has been a resurgence in infections in both the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

There have been concerns that a second wave of infections may warrant a harsher lockdown. Business For South Africa has warned that if the country moves back to Level 3, the country could shed 200 000 more jobs. It would see GDP contract by 10.6%.

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