In its largest bilateral vaccine donation to date, the United States government announced on Monday that it would donate 5.7 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to South Africa – with the first tranche of vaccines to arrive in Johannesburg over the weekend.
“On behalf of the American people, I am very proud that we are able to donate these vaccine doses to South Africa and have no doubt that the medicines will help save many lives in South Africa,” said the US Mission’s Chargé d’ Affaires Todd Haskell in a statement.
The donations are part of the Biden-Harris pledge to donate 500 million vaccine doses globally, the statement read.
South Africa has been one of the worst hit countries in Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic and is emerging from a dramatic third wave of the virus driven by the more transmissible Delta variant. On Sunday, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa eased some restrictions that had been in place for a several weeks to combat the rise in infections.
The South African government had been criticized for its slow rollout of vaccines, but in recent days the vaccine drive has accelerated substantially. From Sept. 1 anyone over the age of 18 will be eligible for a jab.
Earlier this month, two provinces in South Africa were hit by widespread looting and unrest that slowed vaccination efforts temporarily.
“South Africans know they can count on the United States, as a friend and partner, to support their efforts to fight the pandemic and get their economy back on track,” said Haskell in the statement.