Government sets vaccine cost at R20.6 billion for main rollout

South Africa laid out a long-awaited plan to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, saying it will cost 20.6 billion rand ($1.4 billion) to inoculate two thirds of the population and the state will be the sole purchaser.

The government will agree contracts with suppliers and allocate vaccines to regional authorities and the private sector, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a presentation to parliament on Thursday.

The majority of the doses will come from AstraZeneca Plc, which has set a price of 54 rand each compared with Moderna Inc’s 536 rand, he said.

Mkhize said he expects to start obtaining vaccines next month and inoculate 67% of the population by the end of the year.

The plan comes as the government faces mounting criticism over its lack of progress in procuring vaccines, with no supply deals signed with pharmaceutical companies even as several other countries start their programs.

Mkhize is speaking the day after South Africa reported a daily record of confirmed cases, and President Cyril Ramaphosa and other top officials are considering strengthening lockdown measures.

The government has said previously it expects to begin receiving shots in the second quarter of 2021 to cover a 10th of its about 60 million people through the Covax initiative, which is trying to ensure equitable access to vaccines.

Now read: All the COVID-19 vaccines South Africa is considering

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Government sets vaccine cost at R20.6 billion for main rollout