JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa expects to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the global vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the World Health Organization in the second quarter of next year, the health ministry said on Friday.
The ministry added in a statement that it was on track to sign an agreement with the COVAX program by Dec. 15, by which date it would also make the first tranche of payment.
South Africa has recorded more than 800,000 coronavirus infections and over 21,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the most on the African continent.
The country is seeking to buy vaccines for 10% of its population of roughly 58 million people via COVAX. The full cost of purchasing that amount of doses is roughly 2.2 billion rand ($145.1 million), of which 327 million rand is a down payment, the health ministry said.
"Our understanding from the production estimates we have been provided with at this stage is that we should expect to receive the first batch of stock in quarter two of 2021," the ministry's statement said.
The ministry added that no vaccine manufacturers had yet submitted applications to local health regulator SAHPRA to roll out their vaccine candidates.
"Nevertheless SAHPRA has committed to ensuring the expeditious evaluation of these vaccines once the dossiers have been received," it said.
($1 = 15.1652 rand)
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Mfuneko Toyana and Jonathan Oatis)