South Africa finalized a deal to receive 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE from mid-April, allowing the country to prepare for a broad roll-out of inoculations after a series of setbacks.
The agreement had been delayed by contractual conditions demanded by Pfizer that aren’t in line with South Africa’s normal procurement policies, Anban Pillay, a deputy director general in the Department of Health, said by text message Tuesday. Those have now been resolved.
The deal comes as a boost to a country where inoculations have been limited to just over 250,000 health workers taking part in a study by Johnson & Johnson.
That’s meant South Africa lags a number of its emerging-market peers as well as some other African countries.
J&J has agreed to supply more than 30 million doses of its vaccine candidate, which was approved for general use in South Africa last week.
That and the Pfizer-BioNTech version will be used to kick-start the roll out after a decision not to use AstraZeneca Plc’s shot, which was found to offer little protection against mild forms of Covid-19 in a local trial.
Pfizer insisted that South Africa’s health and finance ministers personally sign the vaccine-supply pact, which includes indemnity clauses to protect the company against any future legal claims, according to correspondence between the ministers seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by the National Treasury.
“Our discussions with the government in South Africa to provide access to the vaccine are still ongoing,” Pfizer said in an emailed response to questions. “These discussions are confidential and we are therefore unable to divulge any details at the moment.”
Pfizer will deliver vaccines every quarter, Pillay told the Business Day newspaper, which reported the signing of the deal earlier.