Russia has donated 300 million doses of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines to the African Union. The vaccines were donated through the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) set up earlier by the AU. This adds to the 270 million doses that the entity had previously secured from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
According to a statement released Friday, all the vaccines booked are to be taken by countries in the first allocation phase through the online pre-ordering African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP). Russia has also provided a financial package for countries wishing to purchase the vaccine.
“We are grateful to receive the Sputnik V vaccines from the Russian Federation and tremendously proud to be able to offer them on the AMSP for our AU member states,” said Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). He said that the offer will be available to countries by May.
The new doses, the statement notes, are accessible to the 55 AU member countries who will apply online using national access codes issued to the ministries of Finance and Health at the start of the pre-order process which was unveiled last month. Guinea became the first country to benefit with about 400,000 doses set to receive the vaccines next week.
The move by African countries to access vaccines in the middle of the pandemic has been referred to as historical by the AU special envoy Strive Masiyiwa.
“These are historical times. For the first time in history, Africa has secured access to millions of vaccine doses in the middle of a pandemic as most of the Western countries”, he said in an earlier statement.
He however adds that there’s still a huge shortage of doses, a reason they came up with a continental collaboration to guarantee fair allocation and timely access when the drugs become available. Africa has a total population of about 1.2 billion people.
Meanwhile, through the COVAX facility, Africa has been planned to get 90 million doses in the first phase of vaccinations with the so far approved vaccines for emergency use of AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech by the World Health Organization.
The Sputnik V vaccines are not yet approved by WHO although many countries including Uganda have been in talks with Russia for possible partnerships to access the drug.