Western Cape premier Alan Winde says that the province plans to procure its own Covid-19 vaccines as it cannot rely on government as the sole supplier.
In an interview with Cape Talk, Winde said that the provincial government has the legal authority to procure a vaccine and that he has been in active discussions with suppliers.
This will be a benefit to the people of the Western Cape and the rest of South Africa, as it will mean an additional vaccine is available in the country, he said.
Winde indicated that he was also willing to share any excess vaccines he procured with other provinces.
“If I can get supply I will link it in with (Health minister) Zweli Mkhize – but obviously I want the bulk of them to come to our province.
“We are already seeing that the supply that we are getting as a country doesn’t look good, and it looks like that we won’t get sufficient vaccines for this whole year. So I have got to find another supply.”
Winde said that he intends to follow all governance processes and that any vaccines brought in will have to be approved by the country’s health regulator.
He said that the Western Cape needs approximately 4.6 million doses for the province if is to achieve herd immunity, with 100,000 needed for frontline workers.
He added that many people and businesses are happy to pay for their own needs and for others, and that the bulk of the funding will likely come from the private sector.
The Department of Health has estimated a maximum cost of R20 billion to vaccinate the entire country, while more recent internal estimates done by the Treasury are far lower than this.
Last week, president Cyril Ramaphosa said the country will get an initial 20 million doses, with the first batch of 1.5 million shots of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca set to arrive this month.
On Monday, Department of Health officials indicated that the country had secured an additional nine million vaccines through a deal with pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson.
The J&J deal will take the total number of doses that South Africa stands to receive to around 30 million.
The national government has faced criticism in recent weeks for its slow procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
While developing nation peers such as Indonesia and Argentina are among more than 50 already administering shots, South Africa’s inoculation program has yet to get off the ground, Bloomberg reports.
In December, it pinned down sufficient doses to cover just 10% of the population from Covax, a facility that aims to distribute vaccines equitably around the world.
But those are only due to start arriving next month and the authorities have been scrambling to source additional supplies.
The haphazard procurement process has angered South Africa’s top medical scientists and frustrated labour unions, business groups and opposition parties, who say the country doesn’t have time to lose.
South Africa has confirmed 1.36 million infections so far, the most in Africa, and more than 38,000 deaths. Hospitals can barely cope with a resurgence in cases.
“It was poor planning on the part of the government,” said Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinnology and lead researcher for the South African arm of the AstraZeneca Plc and University of Oxford vaccine trial. “They failed the country.”