JOHANNESBURG, April 6 (Reuters) – South Africa has signed an agreement with Pfizer Inc for 20 million dual shot COVID-19 vaccine doses, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday, boosting plans to start mass vaccinations from April.
The deal is another fillip for the country worst hit by COVID-19 infections in Africa as it adds to the 31 million single-shot doses from Johnson & Johnson which the government approved on Thursday.
The first batch from Pfizer is expected to arrive later in April, Anban Pillay, Deputy Director-general at the Department of Health, told Reuters, but he did not comment on the price.
The government is buying the J&J vaccine for $10 per dose.
After the Pfizer deal, the government will have enough to vaccinate roughly 41 million people out of its total population of 60 million.
The country has also been allocated 12 million shots under the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme and is likely to get doses for 10 million people from the African Union’s AVATT initiative.
It is not clear whether the COVAX and AVATT doses will be a single shot, dual shot or a mix of both.
Health experts have urged the government to scale up its vaccination programme in the light of speculation that Africa’s most industrialized country is likely to be hit by a third wave of infections in the winter months of June and July.
South Africa’s vaccination campaign was dealt a blow in early February when it put on hold a plan to start inoculations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine, after a small trial showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 caused by the dominant local coronavirus variant.
The government then switched to the J&J shot in an “implementation study” to start protecting frontline healthcare workers with limited doses. (Reporting by Alexander Winning and Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Giles Elgood)