National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane says that South Africa is considering a number of options to finance the Covid-19 vaccine.
Mogajane told a press briefing on Wednesday (28 January) that this will include possible tax hikes. He said that the government would also look at increasing borrowing or reprioritising budgets from other government departments.
Treasury officials also confirmed that they were still in talks with the World Bank about a possible loan. An official decision on funding is expected to be announced in finance minister Tito Mboweni’s budget speech in February.
In an interview last week, Mogajane said that South Africa typically gets money from two sources – taxes and borrowing from the market.
"(Neither) of the two options are ideal as you can imagine. However, at this point in time, we are facing a pandemic and the president confirmed that we will do anything possible to ensure we find the money," he said.
Despite the financial considerations, the director-general said that ultimately the decision was about saving lives.
"One way or the other, we will have to bite the bullet, we have to do it for the sake of South Africans and saving lives. We have to do everything in our power to make sure that we buy these vaccines and vaccinate South Africans."
The Department of Health has estimated a maximum cost of R20 billion to vaccinate the entire country, while more recent internal estimates done by the Treasury are far lower than this.
In a briefing on Wednesday evening, Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed that one million dosages of the vaccine are scheduled to leave India on Sunday (31 January) and will arrive in the country on Monday (1 February).
A further 500,000 vaccine doses are set to arrive in the country later in February.
"Government is working closely with the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) to ensure no delay in approving the vaccine for use," he said.
"The Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine has already been approved various regulators around the world and is being rolled out in other countries."