Pfizer Inc. is demanding that South Africa’s health and finance ministers personally sign a Covid-19 vaccine supply agreement so that it is indemnified from any claims made against it in the country regarding the shooting.
The request is contained in a March 24 letter from South African Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize to his finance counterpart Tito Mboweni, seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by the National Treasury. Pfizer was not satisfied with assurances that the signature of the country’s chief health officer was sufficient to secure compensation, Mkhize said.
The demand threatens to further delay the rollout of South Africa’s immunization program, which lags behind that of its peers in emerging markets and a number of African countries, and increases pressure on the government . The agreement covers the supply of 20 million doses of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech SE.
The ministerial signatures will give Pfizer “assurance that the terms of the indemnity clause are recognized by the government and, as such, any liability that may be established will be covered by the fiscus,” Mkhize wrote. “You will no doubt agree with me that there is increasing pressure and that we can no longer publicly justify further delays. “
The Mkhize spokeswoman declined to comment. The National Treasury said in a response to a question that talks on signing the agreements were ongoing and confirmed receipt of the letter.
“We are in talks with the South African government to provide access to the vaccine,” Pfizer said in response to questions. “These discussions are confidential and we have nothing to announce at the moment.”The request was the last Pfizer would make and, once signed, vaccines would start arriving within two weeks, Mkhize said.
With more than 1.5 million recorded infections and nearly 53,000 deaths, South Africa is the continent most affected by the coronavirus. So far, only 231,605 people have been vaccinated in a study using Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine while a larger vaccination program has yet to begin.
The government said an initial target of vaccinating 40 million people this year would be missed.
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On March 26, News24, a South African news website, said larger deliveries of Johnson & Johnson photos would be delayed because the government failed to sign a no-fault indemnity clause, citing people he did not identify. Anban Pillay, deputy director general of the health department, told Bloomberg there was no delay without giving more information.
– With the help of Antony Sguazzin
(Updates with Pfizer’s comment in the sixth paragraph)