The South African health minister has hit out at Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, telling colleagues that the government has had to navigate difficult clauses and put the country’s finances at risk to secure jabs.
“As government we have found ourselves in a precarious position of having to choose between saving our citizens’ lives and risking putting the country’s assets into private companies’ hands,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told colleagues in a virtual meeting on Wednesday. The minister said that the country is paying $10 per dose for the J&J and Pfizer vaccines, neither of which are refundable under any circumstances.
“We have been taken aback by this as there are clauses in the agreement that express this support,” he said, referencing a demand by J&J that the company wouldn’t sign off on vaccine deliveries until Pretoria supported its investment in a domestic firm. “I mention this to demonstrate to members some of the difficult and sometimes unreasonable terms and preconditions that we have had to navigate through.”
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On Tuesday, Mkhize said the country would suspend the rollout of the J&J vaccine following concerns raised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over a possible link between the jab and potentially fatal blood clots. “We have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated,” Mkhize said in a statement.
Elsewhere, the European Union has suspended the vaccine’s rollout and launched a review. The Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca jab has also been investigated concerning links to thrombotic events, which many nations, including the UK, introducing restrictions on its use.
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