Pfizer is demanding that South Africa’s Health and Finance ministers personally sign a COVID-19 vaccine supply agreement so that it is indemnified from any claims over the shot made against it in the country. A Moneyweb report notes the demand is contained in a 24 March letter from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to his Finance counterpart Tito Mboweni.
Pfizer was not satisfied by assurances that the signature of the country’s Health Department director general is sufficient to guarantee the indemnity, Mkhize said. The agreement is for the supply of 20m doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The ministerial signatures will give Pfizer the “assurance that the terms of the indemnity clause are acknowledged by government and, as such, any liability that may be established will be covered by the fiscus”, Moneyweb reports Mkhize wrote. “You will no doubt agree with me that there is mounting pressure and we can no longer justify publicly any further delays.”
The demand is the last that Pfizer will make and, once indemnity is signed, vaccines would begin to arrive within two weeks, Mkhize said.
Moneyweb reports that Mkhize’s spokesperson declined to comment. The National Treasury said in a response to a query that discussions about the signing of agreements were ongoing and confirmed receipt of the letter.
“We are in discussions with the government in South Africa to provide access to the vaccine,” Pfizer said in a response to queries. “These discussions are confidential and we have nothing to announce at the current time.”