South Africa will buy doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at a price 2.5 times higher than most European countries, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The continent’s worst virus-hit country has ordered at least 1.5 million shots of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, expected in January and February.
A senior health official on Thursday told the AFP news agency those doses would cost $5.25 each – nearly 2.5 times the amount paid by most European countries.
“The National Department of Health confirms that the price $5.25 is what was quoted to us,” deputy director-general of health Anban Pillay said via text message, without explaining the price difference.
European Union (EU) members will pay only 1.78 euros ($2.16) for AstraZeneca’s shots, according to information leaked by a Belgian minister on Twitter last month.
Bilateral deals between wealthier governments and coronavirus vaccine manufacturers have raised concern over price rise and lack of supply for low- and middle-income countries.
The World Health Organization last year warned against “vaccine nationalism” and “price gouging” once a successful shot was found.
AstraZeneca France told AFP in November that its shots would be capped at 2.5 euros (about $3) per dose “to provide vaccines to the widest population, with as fair access as possible”.
The pharmaceutical giant did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the health ministry’s price quote.
South Africa’s AstraZeneca vaccine order is part of 20 million secured doses to be delivered in the first half of 2021.