A hearing began in a South Africa court on Tuesday to determine whether the government overpaid for Covid-19 vaccines, an allegation made by advocacy groups who contend that a lack of transparency may have masked pharmaceutical profits at the public’s expense.
At issue are contracts signed by the South African government with several companies — including Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer — that provided millions of Covid-19 vaccines during the pandemic. The government also obtained vaccine doses through donations and a World Health Organization program called COVAX, which sought to make vaccines available to mostly low and middle-income countries.
The contracts, however, have never been publicly disclosed. And in its lawsuit, Health Justice Initiative argues that without access to more details on terms or pricing, that speculation is “rife” that the South African government may have overpaid. The advocacy group has also maintained that mistrust about such arrangements can contribute to vaccine hesitancy.