South African minister says down payments to J&J, Pfizer not refundable

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The South African government’s downpayments to Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer for COVID-19 vaccines are not refundable under any circumstances, its health minister said on Wednesday, describing the condition as onerous.

Zweli Mkhize made the comments a day after the government suspended the rollout of J&J’s vaccine, citing a recommendation by US federal health agencies to pause its use because of rare cases of blood clots.

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The suspension is the latest setback for South Africa’s efforts to immunize its population.

It ditched plans to kick-start vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s vaccine in February because a small trial showed the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the dominant local coronavirus variant.

Mkhize told a virtual meeting with a parliamentary committee that Africa’s most industrialized economy had to navigate “difficult and sometimes unreasonable” demands from vaccine manufacturers during negotiations.

“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.

Read more:

One US patient dies, another in critical condition after J&J vaccine: Official

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine under EU review over blood clots

Australia reports second case of AstraZeneca blood clot, vaccine rollout steady

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