- Tells Gazette that it hasn’t authorized such supply
- Says such deals are suspect and risky
- Only supplies through COVAX to gov’ts only
- Former Health PS warns against rushed vaccine deals
- Says the short time given by Khama entity makes deal suspect
Following a revelation by President Mokgweetsi Masisi that his government was duped into a COVID-19 vaccine sales deal and a call by former president Ian Khama on the government to commit to a new five-day vaccine deal he claims to have secured, Pfizer denies engaging in deals with private distributors.
Yesterday, the spokesperson of Pfizer Dervila Keane told The Botswana Gazette in an email response that the organization only supplied the COVID-19 vaccine through governments and supranational entities.
This publication had requested the international pharmaceutical company to confirm if indeed they had a deal with a company named KKM Global Group LLC, which claimed in a written communiqué released by the SKI Khama Foundation that it can secure the sale of over 2 million vaccines to Botswana in 30 days was indeed authentic and whether they have had any dealings with it in regards to distribution of vaccine to countries.
Keane from Pfizer responded abruptly that: “ To address the global health crisis, all of our current COVID-19 vaccine supply agreements are with governments or supranational organizations like COVAX.”
Keane also added that governments through COVAX are in the best position to fairly and equitably distribute these vaccines across their populations.
“Currently, there is no authorized private distributor of our vaccine worldwide. The quality and efficacy of any vaccine moving through any non-authorized channels cannot be assured and should be viewed as suspect potentially putting lives at risk,” Keane responded to an enquiry from The Botswana Gazette.
The CEO of the foundation owned by former president Khama told the public on radio that they had a secured a deal -with a five days expiry period for Botswana government to pay to KKM Group over half a billion for the uptake of delivery of vaccines.
A former permanent secretary for the Ministry of Health, Dr Edward Maganu, has appealed for extra caution in future deals because there are “often fakes in the market” and therefore a need “to be careful of middle men”.
“Despite our desperate situation, we should remain responsible and cautious,” Dr Maganu, who has worked for Botswana’s Ministry of Health for 21 years and for World Health Organisation (WHO) for more than 12 years, warned.
Alongside former minister Pelonomi Venson, Dr Patson Mazonde and the late Dr John Mukwa, Dr Maganu is also credited with establishing what was at one stage Africa’s best primary healthcare system in Botswana.
He said while he did not have full information on Khama’s deal, he was particularly disturbed by the hastiness accompanying it. “I don’t have adequate information on this deal and therefore these are just generalized views,” he noted. “One thing I have learned over many years in the medicines trade and procurement is to be careful of middle men. There are quite often fakes in the market.
“We know that with the COVID vaccines short as they are, manufacturers prioritize governments. We know that the Botswana Government has ordered and paid for a lot of vaccines that probably will meet the country’s needs but they are taking long to be delivered. How would a private company more or less buy the vaccines so easily?”
“Why would it (the government) pay for another consignment? Would it have that kind of money sitting somewhere to be just drawn on? Also, the time given for payment is short. Government would have to investigate to check if the deal is genuine.”
Known as SKI Khama Foundation, the former president’s recently unveiled organization says it used its network of international partners to secure two million doses each of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for Botswana and that it has informed the government to commit to the offer within five working days.
The deal has ignited debate and mixed reactions on social media with some supporting it and others opposing it. The deal has also brought rivalry issues between Khama and Masisi to the fore again.