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South Africa to launch compensation fund to allay concerns of vaccine manufacturers

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JOHANNESBURG – The South African government’s compensation fund to cover potential injuries from COVID-19 vaccines could cost around 250 million rand ($ 17.5 million) in the first year, the Minister of Health said. Health in response to questions from Parliament.

The African country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in terms of infections and deaths has told vaccine makers Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer it will create the fund during negotiations to buy vaccines.

“A contingent liability of approximately Rand 250 million for the first year would be provided for compensation for vaccine injuries in an NFC (no-fault compensation) fund for the COVID-19 vaccine,” the health minister said Zweli Mkhize in written responses to a legislator.

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Mkhize said the potential cost was based on an estimate of between 800 and 2,000 successful claims and included the fund’s administrative costs. He said an expert committee would develop a vaccine injury table to assess compensation claims.

The minister said last week that the government had agreed to fully indemnify J&J and Pfizer against third party claims and that vaccine makers had made “difficult and sometimes unreasonable” demands during negotiations, including non-refundable down payments. .

A spokeswoman for J&J said on Monday the company was still in talks with the South African government and had committed to making its vaccine available at a non-profit price.

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Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but told Reuters last week it seeks indemnification and liability guarantees in all of its agreements, in accordance with local laws.

J&J and Pfizer will provide South Africa with a total of 61 million doses of vaccine, helping to speed up vaccinations after a slow start.

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To date, South Africa has vaccinated around 290,000 health workers with J&J’s single-dose vaccine in a research study, but last week it suspended the study as regulators question a possible link between J & J’s vaccine and rare cases of blood clots.

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The government expects the first commercial batch of J&J doses later this month and the two-dose vaccine doses of Pfizer next month.

Between the J&J and Pfizer agreements, South Africa has obtained enough vaccines for 46 million of its roughly 60 million people.

In the 2021 budget presented in February, the government said it could spend up to R19.3 billion over three fiscal years on its immunization program.

($ 1 = 14.2289 rand) (Report by Alexander Winning edited by Gareth Jones)

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