China’s Sinovac heading to SA
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By ABBEY MAKOE
As South Africa’s feel-good stories trickle-in in the aftermath of the recent violent unrests, the government will be wiser to appreciate what social scientists often refer to as the “compression of time and space”, or the vitality of time and speed.
South Africa experienced its worst social turmoil in democratic era, leaving in their wake fatalities thus far said to be 215 and still rising as the Phoenix racial saga unravels.
As it never rains but pours for the Ramaphosa administration, the onslaught of Covid-19’s third wave seems to be a cruel turn of fate.
But, thankfully, every cloud has a silver lining. For us, South Africans, it comes in the form of China’s undertaking to supply the country with no less than 10 million doses of Sinovac vaccine as soon as local approval systems permit.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) recently approved the two-dose jab for use in the country following a public outcry about inexplicable indifference to source the Chinese and Russian Sputnik V vaccines.
More mind-boggling had been the fact that both China and Russia are together with South Africa members of the exclusive influential group better known as BRICS, acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The country’s close ties to the West, particularly the US, UK and France, are an open-book matter. But the intelligentsia community coupled with the EFF-led hollering somehow managed to bear pressure on the authorities to make decision on the acquisition of Chinese and Russian vaccines. So far there are still some lingering questions over paper-work to procure Sputnik V whereas there remains skepticism over the efficacy of Sinovac against the new coronavirus variants.
Sinovac’s official partners in SA, Numolux Group, recently said through the company’s head Anton Arendse that 2.5 million vaccine doses were already available for use in SA and a further 7.5 million could be delivered once an order is made.
He attributed the positive attitudes from all sides to the flourishing bilateral relations between Pretoria and Beijing, as well as the BRICS dynamic.
Earlier this week, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said a total number of people already inoculated stand at 5.5 million.
A total number of infections are over 2.3 million and Covid-19 related fatalities more than 67 000.
Inoculations, according to experts, in crucial in preventing diseases, hospitalisation or deaths. Hence the heightened public appeals globally by governments urging sceptics to get their jabs and better be safe than sorry.
Even in vaccine-manufacturing countries such as Russia, the US and the UK, authorities are often at pains urging their citizens to vaccinate. In South Africa, the vaccination drive is expected to rise sharply following the less than satisfactory initial stage of vaccinating the over-60s.
The numbers rose encouragingly when the age bracket of 50 upwards were allowed to vaccinate, and now the 35-year-olds and above will soon qualify to get the jabs, too.
South Africa’s key vaccines have thus far been Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson. But as the EFF argued during their protest march to Sahpra offices in Pretoria, unless plausible reasons are made available the country need to procure vaccines from its BRICS partners, where political and economic relations are already intact and developing in a world where strategic partnerships are of vital diplomatic importance.
And, as the World Health Organization warns us, the world is not out of trouble yet despite concerted efforts at vaccine manufacturing from multitude of quarters.
A fourth wave of Covid-19 has already been reported from a number of countries world-wide. Closer to home, Algeria and Tunisia are said to be in the grip of the fourth wave. Health experts warn that the pandemic could be around for a longer while than initially anticipated.
Hence for countries such as South Africa, it is better not to be penny wise and pound foolish. In short, accept China’s offer of their vaccines and expedite the authorisation of Sputnik V whilst at the same migrating the manufacturing of vaccines locally.
SA’s Cape Town-based Biovac Institute will soon begin to manufacture Pfizer and BioNTech vaccines here in South Africa. Under the deal, the company will effective from 2022 process and distribute more than 100 million vaccine doses per annum for the African Union.
Surely, this is a major breakthrough in the possible transfer of skills and technology to the stretched local market. Nothing stops Pretoria from pursuing similar arrangements with its other suppliers of vaccines, particularly its BRICS partners who are always willing to cooperate without much ado.
In that way, the country would be wisely building its capacity for self-reliance and sustainability as well as job creation. Instead of money leaving the country to follow the usual capital flight particularly to Europe that seems to enjoy impunity from prosecution, South Africa’s finances would circulate locally, thereby empowering Treasury to better plan on how to support service delivery programmes with favourable fiscus.