Africa’s virus capital risks becoming vaccine laggard

SA may have to wait months before it sees its first Covid vaccines.
President Ramaphosa. Image: GCIS

South Africa, which has Africa’s worst recorded coronavirus outbreak, may have to wait months to receive its first vaccines even as other countries race to roll out the shots.

The government only expects vaccines that it paid a deposit to secure from the World Health Organization’s Covax program to arrive in the second quarter of 2021, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa. The wait bodes ill for a country that’s confronting a new more virulent strain of the virus, record new infections and a populace that’s increasingly eschewed social distancing.

Talks with drug companies about supplementing South Africa’s Covax allocation are ongoing, Ramaphosa said in an address Monday night, in which he announced the re-imposition of several restrictions aimed at curbing the pandemic’s spread. It’s unclear when or whether those shots will be made available, with several wealthy nations having already prepaid to pin down most of the initial production.

“With a lot of advanced purchasing of vaccines, it will be hard to jump the queues in trying to secure earlier vaccine doses,” said Stavros Nicolaou, an executive at Aspen Pharmacare Holdings and head of the health work group at Business for South Africa, an alliance of the nation’s biggest business groups that’s known as B4SA.

The Solidarity Fund, which was established to support the government’s pandemic response and is backed by some of the country’s biggest companies and richest individuals, paid the initial R283 million Covax deposit. It will cost a total of R2.7 billion for South Africa to secure its full allocation of six million doses from the facility — sufficient to cover about 10% of the population.

South Africa’s biggest labor group said the government’s vaccine roll-out program does not inspire confidence. “More so when other countries across Europe and the Americas have begun mass vaccinations, the Congress of South African Trade Unions said in a statement. “We cannot afford to allow South Africans to die because of state lethargy.”

It has called on the government and the private sector to produce a plan to ensure all South Africans are vaccinated during 2021.

While the government wants to secure alternate supplies immediately, affordability remains a major constraint, and the efficacy of a number of potential shots remains unproven, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in an online briefing on Tuesday. The pandemic has exacerbated state funding constraints, with the central bank expecting the economy to contract 8% this year.

The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, called on the government to reprioritise its spending and redirect a R10.5 billion bailout earmarked for the bankrupt national airline toward paying for vaccines. The money could be used to inoculate as many as 23 million people based on current costs and exchange rates, it said in a statement.

Discovery Health, the nation’s biggest medical insurer, said it’s in talks with the government to secure access to vaccines and funds have been ring-fenced to provide the shots to its members when they become available.

‘Reasonable expectation’

“Given there are only two vaccines that have received emergency-use approval at this stage and the time required to ramp-up vaccine manufacturing, it is difficult to accurately project timelines at this stage,” Ronald Whelan, Discovery Health’s chief commercial officer, said in an emailed response to questions. “Some time in the second quarter of 2021 would likely be a reasonable expectation.”

More than 5.1 million vaccine doses have been administered in 22 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. South Africa, which has recorded more than 1 million Covid-19 infections so far, needs to join their ranks as soon as possible, according to B4SA.

“We will do whatever is needed to ensure that the requisite vaccine supplies are secured and distributed as a matter of extreme urgency,” said Martin Kingston, who heads the group’s steering committee.

© 2020 Bloomberg


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in and an Insider Gold subscriber to comment.


When Kingston is involved I start having doubts.

He watched SAA being raped for a number of years before he decided to just resign when business rescue started to scratch.

Agree. He’s one of the Oligarch appointees to oversee the complete (cheap) takeover of SA.

LOL – These clowns will just go for the Sinovac and sputnik varieties and bulldust everyone to believe they are now superheroes. !!

Agree. in the end it will be being to the BRIC countries. While these very countries dont care about SA!

You mean the DA? It was Steinhuisen who said in an interview that these, Sputnik & Sinovac should be purchased and distributed.. personally I think he should get on tv.

The other two.. Phizer & Moderna are synthetic and if the $30 a pop doesn’t bring some reality to you the ULT cold chain will once you figure it out. Of cause what splits educated and idiot in SA are the okes saying gov should mass roll out these again DA has said so in interviews.

I’m not advocating for the ANC but dumb opposition is equally lethal and We’ve seen this in December .. normalizing while there is a pandemic yah that was brilliant hey. Now when it’s going crazy let’s not look at why it’s spreading.

I think in terms of vaccines J&J single does vacine will be the one we need which is made by Aspen Pharmacare in EC or Oxford AstraZeneca (requires 2 doses) as they stable at standard vaccine temps. If you check actual interviews with people involved.. of gov started bilateral talks with pharma for this in September.. why they were so quite about is worrying though.

Wonder how many lives could have been saved had this lot acted in time? Maybe at the end of the day millions.

They might think disaster can be avoided by banning cooked chicken or cigarettes.


Well, Fikile has now hit a new level of idiocy, just when we thought hot chicken was the gold standard for ridiculousness. International flights must be scheduled according to RSA curfews? Is it possible to be more clueless as to how the world works?

How many lives could have been saved if people didn’t act like dumb kids and actually lived life with some precaution globally everyone but the morons have ie keep social distance.

Americans & European have led by example to show what not to do in summer, it go frolic with friends, enjoy life at restaurants, enjoy family get togethers etc.

And what did SA do? Yes we did the exact same thing. Ironically idiocy seems to be inherent in everyone if you consider this. So is he an idiot? Or is everyone epically idiotic. Well.. I’d say the latter.

Oh and we saw this December that affluence has no impact on passing down common sense either as wealthy kids ran amok partying all over SA particularly in coastal towns. But let’s sweep that under the rug and focus on gov?

The slow silent killing of SA.

As Gareth van Onslen put it so well.

From farmers, to Mbeki and the AIDSs debacle now to this pandemic.

Always late, never hit a deadline and never be early, just look at CR and the family chats, always late.

Yup; ANC mantra; a day late and a dollar short – stolen by the ANC elite cadres.

Delay was due to dispute on rebates and kickbacks.Idots then realized no money in ATM so sucked the Solidarity fund for the so called “deposit”

let private medical aids import vaccines direct , but no no that wo nt work cause
Cr and his long fingered cadres need to skim da cream on EVERYTHINg

Heard him say a few days ago.

“We will get the vaccine AT THE RIGHT TIME”

When is the right time??? Its already too late.

What a bunch of idiots.

Another fine mess the ANC has got us into.


If you think about this problem in its entirety.

COVID-19 (and with the help of the ANC) will certainly kill a proportion of the ANC’s VOTER base.

Next election … less ANC!

No problem blowing 400bn of tax revenue on the lockdowns, no problem bailing out SAA for 20bn, but the govt can’t find R350m deposit for the first lot of vaccines.

Also just plan to go 10% of the population, so with 90% at risk we can keep the state of emergency for ever.

Any notions that the govt cares for “our people ” must surely be in shreds.

They clearly don’t give a flying f…..

The one and only criticism which is valid is the role of treasury and airline bailout and why this is proceeding. Of cause there is a lot that can be done by political parties to fight this in parliament along with unions (tho they like the Brits want to hold the cake and eat it which never works).

Of cause they have not pushed in parliament because talking to the public is how you get things done. Yes? I mean that’s how they got Zuma out too.. they rallied public and the public got rid of Zuma. That grannies sung a song and Zuma was gone.

Oh. That’s not what happen. What happen was public pressure forced discussion among the actual stakeholders whom kicked him out when election came. What’s my point.. like a grown up realize who the stakeholders are, publicly discuss the issues and what things change but doing so with sweeping unilateral statements is not changing a thing. It hasn’t for 25years.. im a glutton for punishment but even I know when it’s time to try a different approach.

Why do you always write such long-winded nonsense?

End of comments.



Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Moneyweb newsletters

Instrument Details  

You do not have any portfolios, please create one here.
You do not have an alert portfolio, please create one here.

Follow us: