Business sector to raise M100 million for Covid-19 vaccine

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Bereng Mpaki

OVER 100 local businesspeople have committed to raising M100 million to procure Covid-19 vaccines.

The initiative is meant to complement the vaccines that the government is expecting from the COVAX facility this month.

The COVAX facility is a fully subsidised initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to enable poor countries, among them Lesotho, to get free vaccines covering 20 percent of their respective populations. Lesotho has approximately 2, 1 million people and 20 percent amounts to about 400 000.

The business community is therefore hoping to finance the purchasing of vaccines for at least 900 000 vaccine eligible people who are not covered by the COVAX facility. This is considering that children 16 and under are not eligible for vaccination.

While neighbouring countries have procured Covid-19 vaccines over and above the COVAX allocation, Lesotho is yet to commit any funds towards procuring vaccines. This means economic activity may remain subdued for a long time until Covid-19 infections subside.

And businessman Sam Matekane on Monday told the Lesotho Times that the business community was willing to lend a hand in the fight against Covid-19 by procuring extra Covid-19 vaccines.

The assistance is premised on the understanding that businesses remain in grave danger of collapsing without universal access to the life-saving Covid-19 vaccines.

“We are currently in talks with the government for possible collaboration in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines,” Mr Matekane said.

“We want to raise at least M100 million. This should cover the remaining 80 percent of the population which will not benefit from the COVAX scheme. We are hoping to soon launch a trust fund through which to collect the funds from the business community for the sole purpose of helping the government to procuring the vaccines.”

He said members of the public would be allowed to contribute into the fund once it is in place.

“It is imperative for the business community to assist the government having witnessed the deadly virus taking lives of many of our loved ones, and also the devastating effect it poses on our valuable workforce and our businesses. We understand that this is a national crisis which needs everyone’s efforts to be defeated.”

He said there was a strong commitment from both large corporates and small businesses.

In his Sunday national address, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro expressed gratitude to the business community for its pledge.

“I am proud to announce that the business community has approached us for collaboration towards the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

“They have informed us that their preparations were at an advanced stage and would launch a fund in the next two weeks to support the government. We are therefore, grateful for their support,” Dr Majoro said.

Dr Major said the Covid-19 vaccine would be rolled out in three batches, with the first one to cover 430 000 people from March or early April 2021.

He said frontline workers, including health professionals, would be prioritised under this phase.

The second batch of close to 400 000 doses will cover factory workers and security forces employees among others, he said. The last batch will cover about 600 000 people

“We are targeting to vaccinate at least 1 400 000 people,” Dr Majoro said.

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