The US is giving 5.66 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to South Africa, the US embassy in Pretoria has announced. Half of them will arrive by plane on Sunday and the other half on Tuesday.
The acting US ambassador to SA, Todd Haskell, told Daily Maverick this was part of President Joe Biden’s promise to give 500 million vaccines to the world by the end of 2022.
The vaccines will be channelled to South Africa through Covax, the international aid initiative to try to ensure that low- and middle-income countries are not left behind in the global effort to vaccinate against Covid-19.
Haskell said the 5.66 million vaccines for South Africa would be the largest donation of Covid-19 vaccines to a single country by the US. The second-largest would be four million to Nigeria.
It was part of the wider work the US was doing to help vaccinate South Africans, including the project with Germany, France and the World Bank to finance the South African pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare to produce Johnson & Johnson vaccines in South Africa for this country and the rest of Africa.
The US effort also includes the joint venture between the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the South African vaccine company Biovac to produce Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, also for South Africa and the rest of Africa.
Haskell predicted that with the steep increase in vaccines now starting to come into South Africa, by the end of the year South Africa would have the same problem which the US has now, which was more a lack of demand than a lack of supply.
The US embassy in Pretoria said the Pfizer vaccines arriving from Sunday would feed into the South African government’s own vaccine delivery system. It stressed that these were the same vaccines the US was using for its own citizens and which had been approved by the World Health Organization, the US Food and Drug Administration and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority.
“And they’re donated from the American people, in keeping with how we have long been supporting South Africa’s public health through Pepfar and other programmes,” the statement said. Pepfar is the US’s largest programme for funding and otherwise supporting the fight against HIV/Aids. DM
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