Solidarity Fund injects more than R330m in SA vaccination rollout plan

An estimated 200,000 health-care workers have been vaccinated

25 March 2021 - 14:46 By mpumzi zuzile
SA started administering vaccines on February 17, with health-care workers receiving the single-shot doses developed by Johnson & Johnson. File photo.
SA started administering vaccines on February 17, with health-care workers receiving the single-shot doses developed by Johnson & Johnson. File photo.
Image: Alon Skuy

The Solidarity Fund has spent more than R333m implementing and executing the country's vaccination rollout plan and inoculation of front-line health-care workers.

The fund was established a year ago by President Cyril Ramaphosa when the coronavirus pandemic hit SA.

The fund's disbursement and deployment head Nicola Galombik said on Thursday that the national vaccine programme was led by national department of health, who were spearheading the procurement and delivery of vaccines.

The National Treasury has set aside R10.3bn for vaccines over the next three years, with another R9bn available in an emergency fund.

SA started administering vaccines on February 17, with health-care workers receiving the single-shot doses developed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

“It is important to emphasise that the fund’s contribution will not be used to fund the procurement of the vaccines or any of the research related costs of this project but, rather, to co-fund the operational requirements,” said Galombik.

“Our role at the fund is to support and augment the national effort. We are actively engaging with the joint working groups of government, business and other social partners to determine ways to support the rollout plan for the country that leverages the capabilities and goodwill of all stakeholders,” Galombik said.

She said their involvement in vaccinations began when they were approached by the health department to catalyse the country’s entry into Covax with the down payment of R283m.

“We were then able to quickly respond to supporting the rollout of J&J vaccines through the South African Medical Research Council, the MRC, which helped kick-start the vaccination of health workers ahead of a potential third wave and winter,” she said.

Galombik said the fund was in advanced discussions to fund additional technical capacity to support the department of health at national, provincial, district and subdistrict level.

She also revealed that on February 11 the fund received a request from the director-general of health to contribute R50m towards an implementation study on the J&J vaccine, to be conducted by the MRC.

“The fund views this study as the best opportunity for SA to get early access to a large number of vaccines and to vaccinate health-care workers as quickly as possible.”

She said to date about 200,000 health-care workers had been vaccinated.

She added that the national and provincial departments of health with the private sector and other social partners, were planning the next phases of the rollout, aimed to start end of April or early May.

“The South African government has committed itself to a massive undertaking of vaccinating 40 million South Africans above the age of 18 years — and to complete most by this rollout by the end of 2021, in an effort to reduce severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths and to reach herd immunity,” Galombik said.

Fund CEO Tandi Nzimande said more than R3.22bn had been pledged from the private sector, political parties, foundations, international partners and notably, many individuals.

She said donations continued to come in from a variety of sources, with donations received having grown by R146m in the last six months.

“We anticipate that we will continue seeing approximately R1m monthly into the account, over and above our targeted fundraising drive in support of the national vaccine rollout programme,” Nzimande said.

She said through the fund they had managed to strengthen the health system's capacity to respond to the unprecedented demand for emergency, high and intensive care as well as ventilation support.

“We donated critically needed resources and equipment such as PPE, essential medical equipment and ventilators. Testing capacity, access and coverage were strengthened by funding additional National Health Laboratory Service testing kits,” Nzimande said.

She said the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine had shifted their focus back to health.

“As an agile organisation set up to be additive to government’s response to the pandemic, we feel that there is no greater contribution that we can make than helping to control and hopefully eradicate this disease.”

She however warned that the virus was an evolving challenge. “We are already planning for a third wave as well as other surges,” she said.

She said the fund had also disbursed more than R117m towards emergency food relief in the past year and over R78m in food vouchers.

Nzimande said R19m was spent on a gender-based violence initiative, aimed at providing support, funding and PPE to shelters and institutions that work in the sector.