US to contribute a further R45 million for Covid-19 vaccine distribution in SA | News 24 | Carien du Plessis
The United States is contributing a further R45 million to South Africa’s Covid-19 efforts.
This is on top of the R785 million already contributed, as well as consignments of personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic.
The US has already vaccinated more than 40% of its population.
South Africa’s Covid-19 efforts are set to get a R45 million boost from the United States government, US chargé d’affaires Todd Haskell said on Wednesday.
“The United States will be working with Right to Care. We’re providing $3 million and it’s along the lines of vaccine distribution and addressing the Covid crisis in general,” Haskell said in an interview on Wednesday.
Haskell arrived in South Africa last month following the departure of former US ambassador Lana Marks, and will go on to become consul general in Cape Town once the Biden administration has appointed a new ambassador.
The career diplomat of 35 years said the US had a long-term partnership with South Africa on health issues, starting with Pepfar, the US government’s HIV/Aids treatment and prevention programme launched in 2003 under then-president George W Bush.
The money, which will go toward supporting vaccine delivery, including money for a call centre, follows on a previous contribution of $45 million (more than R785 million) toward South Africa’s Covid-19 efforts.
“We have done a tremendous amount,” Haskell said.
“We brought a lot of PPEs (personal protective equipment) here early in the crisis, respirators, additional assistance on messaging and guidance. We’ve worked closely with the government.”
He said the partnership with South Africa’s Department of Health has been “a really great partnership”.
Haskell also said it was “great news” that vaccines were also coming to South Africa, following news earlier in the week that the government had signed an agreement to secure 20 million doses of Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine – to arrive by the end of April.
Pfizer is a US company, as is Johnson & Johnson, from which South Africa has secured 30 million doses.
“After what has been a really terrible year, 2020 and even the beginning of 2021, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, there’s a real feeling of hope, in South Africa and certainly in the United States as well, so we’re going to get past this,” he said.
The US has contributed $2 billion to Covax and is the largest single donor to the shared vaccines facility.
One of US President Joe Biden’s first acts in office was to sign the country up to Covax after his predecessor, Donald Trump, halted funding to the World Health Organisation ahead of starting a process to withdraw from the agency in July 2021.
The United States has already given out 165 million vaccine doses, with over 40% of its population vaccinated.
Haskell said two of his three children live in the United States and one has already been vaccinated, while the other has made an appointment for a vaccination.
“You can begin to feel that things were opening up in the United States,” he said.
Asked what lessons South Africa could learn from the vaccine roll-out in the US, Haskell said “it’s important to get proper information out about the vaccines” as some people were concerned about getting it.
He said: We have found as more and more people are getting vaccinated, and we have seen that, while there are side-effects initially, there haven’t been any real kind of problems. The vaccines are safe.
Haskell said even though cases have risen in the US, which is currently experiencing a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, there have not been as many deaths from these cases as before.
Three-quarters of people over the age of 65 have already been vaccinated in the US, he said, which has contributed to the drop in the number of deaths.
“I think we are going to see that in South Africa as the vaccine roll-out starts here as well,” he said.
Haskell has done a previous stint in South Africa as public affairs officer in Johannesburg from 2006 to 2010.
This included helping to host then-deputy president Biden when he attended the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
His work has been focused on Africa and he was most recently ambassador to the Republic of Congo.
Haskell’s wife, Jennifer, was also a career diplomat and came back to serve in South Africa in 2016 and 2017.
He said Johannesburg was one of their favourite places when they lived there.
“We really enjoyed it, our kids loved it, and our eldest son graduated from high school here. We really feel at home when we’re back,” he said.
“We’re just really thrilled to be back. This is kind of our second home.”
Credit: Originally published by News 24, April 8, 2021