Treasury: Money for vaccines is no issue, but we won't stop private sector from helping

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Phase 2 of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is due to start in mid-May.
Phase 2 of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is due to start in mid-May.
Michael Ciaglo, Getty Images via AFP
  • Funding has never been an issue for the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, says a Treasury official.
  • Treasury has not yet revised the funding estimate of R20 billion, as it has not yet been determined what combination of vaccines will have to be procured.
  • Government recently lifted the suspension on the J&J vaccination rollout programme, given discoveries of a rare type of blood clot forming in six patients in the US.

Funding has never been an issue in South Africa's Covid-19 vaccine rollout, said Treasury's Deputy Director-General of Public Finance Mampho Modise.

Modise was among several Treasury officials, including Director General Dondo Mogajane, who participated in a Sunday Times virtual dialogue on the budget on Friday.

At the tabling of the budget, Treasury had estimated that vaccines would cost about R20 billion.

Despite speculation of a special tax to fund vaccines, Treasuries instead sourced the funds from the budget and expanded the contingency reserve from R5 billion to R12 billion for possible future withdrawals.

Government has said that it would partner with businesses and medical aid schemes to support procurement. But Modise highlighted that this was not because the government cannot afford vaccines. If the private sector is willing to help, the government will not stop them, she explained.

"We have made it clear between National Treasury and the Department of Health, it is a free vaccine programme available to everyone who is in South Africa. If medical aids are saying they will give R7 billion - as government, we will welcome such a contribution."
- Mampho Modise

Modise said that the government has been working on where and when to source vaccines, as outlined by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Modise said that Treasury has not changed budgeted estimates for the vaccines. "We are still at the testing stages for different vaccines, we are still not sure what combination of vaccines we will have," she said.

Recently, government followed the recommendation of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to lift the suspension on the J&J vaccine rollout. As a precaution government implemented the suspension following reports that the US had suspended rollouts given that rare blood clots developed in six patients.

At a Cabinet briefing on Thursday, acting minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that an additional ten million doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been secured, bringing the total doses to 30 million. "This means South Africa will be able to vaccinate 15 million people with the Pfizer vaccine instead of just ten million," she said.

Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout programme is due to start on 17 May. This phase targets essential workers, persons in congregate settings, those over 60 years and over 18s with co-morbidities.

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