05 February 2021 – 19:39
Health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has explained why SA paid more for the Covid-19 vaccines in comparison to other countries.
Answering questions about vaccine pricing before the parliamentary portfolio commitee on health, Mkhize said the country paid a higher price because it was not involved in paying for vaccine development like other countries which had invested money for this purpose last year.
“The question of SA paying more … There are some countries that got involved early to invest in the manufacturing of vaccines early enough, and therefore that was actually meaning that even when they had to purchase vaccines they would probably pay in addition to their vaccine development, and so on. That is what happens in the US and so on. That is what those prices ultimately become,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize also tried to allay fears about tendering, storage, transportation and pricing of the vaccines. He also tried to allay fears about the delivery of vaccines to hospitals.
MPs in the committee have raised worries about procurement, delivery and quality of the vaccine due to corruption related to personal protective equipment, which was experienced last year when Covid-19 first hit our shores.
Mkhize however, made no promises of the vaccine rollout being a smooth process.
He said though there were targets set by the government, they expected such delays.
“Whatever issues you raise to the manufacturing companies, you have got limits. At a certain point you have to sign a contract, when you have not signed a contract you may not be certain that you stay on that cue.
“And therefore what you might find that what was initially thought would be the delivery schedule, it might be changed by that time there would have been another commitment to other buyers,” said Mkhize.
But these issues, Mkhize indicated, were not unique to SA. He said the delays were also affecting countries who have already bought and secured vaccines to a point that they were asking manufacturers to stop exporting vaccines until they had their own batches.
He said that the government needed support on the vaccine programmes as it was facing challenges that were currently being experienced by well-organised health systems around the world.