South Africa minister says downpayments to J&J, Pfizer not refundable

The South African government’s downpayments for COVID-19 vaccines to Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer are non-refundable in any conditions, according to the country’s health minister, who defined the condition as onerous. 

Zweli Mkhize made the remarks a day after the government halted the introduction of J&J’s vaccine, citing a recommendation from federal health officials in the United States to halt its use due to unusual cases of blood clots.

 The suspension is the most recent setback in South Africa’s immunisation efforts. 

In February, it scrapped plans to begin vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine after a limited trial revealed the shot provided only marginal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant local coronavirus strain. 

During a virtual meeting with a parliamentary committee, Mkhize said that during talks, Africa’s most industrialised economy had to negotiate “difficult and often unfair” requests from vaccine manufacturers.

“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,” he said. South Africa is paying $10 per dose for the J&J and Pfizer vaccines, he added.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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