Big business ‘seriously considering’ government request to fund vaccines

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South Africa’s biggest businesses said they are “seriously considering” a request by the government to help fund the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines as the disease curbs activity in the continent’s most-industrialised economy, reports Bloomberg. The government has come under increasing pressure from unions, health leaders and opposition parties for its failure to secure any agreements with pharmaceutical companies even as at least 29 other countries begin to inoculate their populations.

According to the report, South Africa expects to start getting shots for about 10% of its population only in the second quarter. That deal has been arranged through the Covax initiative, which is designed to ensure poorer countries can secure access.

“Business will fully support a vaccine strategy led by the government, and particularly the department of health and the Treasury, which is transparent, credible, with integrity and clearly defined and properly co-ordinated responsibilities and accountability,” Martin Kingston, vice-president of Business Unity SA, the country’s biggest business grouping, is quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

The deposit for the Covax agreement was paid by the Solidarity Fund, a charity that some of the country’s richest people and biggest companies have contributed to, after the government failed to meet payment deadlines it had announced itself.

“Business has also been engaged, particularly through Business Unity SA, and therefore the total financing arrangement will include medical schemes, business and government with an arrangement made with the Solidarity Fund to provide a platform for collection of funds and for expedited and controlled procurement processes,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

Full Bloomberg report

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