In a bid to help curb the spread of coronavirus infection rates, South Africa’s mining companies, otherwise known as the Minerals Council have announced that they will support the government in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as the country battles a spike in infections.
The mining companies say they are well-positioned to support the COVID-19 response due to decades of experience combatting tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS among workers, including the creation of on-site treatment facilities.
Also, The Minerals Council said its members are developing plans to use the sector’s healthcare infrastructure and delivery capability to accelerate the vaccination programme.
The government has called on the private sector, including miners, to assist with the rollout of vaccines but has not yet outlined exactly how it should assist.
According to the Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter, he said: “While Government is primarily responsible for funding the vaccine rollout and is the single buyer, the industry can play a material role in accelerating the vaccination programme on mines and in mining communities.”
Precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater disclosed that it could carry out 18,000 vaccinations a day using its 45 health and medical facilities. “We could probably vaccinate our entire workforce of around 80,000 people in about a week,” said Sibanye spokesman James Wellsted, while adding that talks were ongoing about extending vaccinations to the community.
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been secured as the country battles infections which reached a peak of more than 21,000 a day, taking total cases to nearly 1.3 million, which is the most on the African continent.
With over 230 COVID-19 deaths in the mining industry, unions have called on mining firms to help pay for vaccines. “They have been making huge profits, and now it’s time for them to buy vaccines for their employees,” said National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu.
In a revealing budget for the vaccines, South Africa’s government has said it might meet 70% of its vaccine needs with AstraZeneca’s shot, which is the cheapest at an estimated 54 Rand ($3.56) per dose. At that price, vaccinating all the country’s more than 470,000 mineworkers with the two-dose regimen from AstraZeneca will cost around 50.9 million rands ($3.36 million).
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