Russia offers African nations COVID-19 vaccine as time runs out

Some African governments are in serious discussions with Russia to supply them with Covid-19 vaccines, even without reaching a phase 3 clinical trial result needed to confirm the vaccine’s efficacy.

Guinea is currently testing the Russian vaccine known as Sputnik V after ordering about two million doses. Nigeria expects to work with Russia, in some capacity, to reach its 40% vaccination goal by the end of 2021.

Simon Ateba, a Senior International Reporter for Today News Africa, asked World Health Organization panelists at a recent media briefing on COVID-19 what they thought about the Russian vaccine discussed with Algerian authorities. 

Dr. Mariangela Simao responded that the World Health Organization (WHO) was assessing vaccine candidates, and at the end of January, WHO had a meeting with the manufactures of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, but was waiting on core information to continue those discussions, which they expect to happen in the next few weeks. 

The Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is testing Russian vaccine samples now. This comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in the country, and Africa at-large remains behind the rest of the world in its ability to secure vaccines.

According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, Nigeria continues to record significant increases as the latest statistics, publishing data on 136,030 confirmed cases. The country has been under-tested compared to Western and European countries, but the more tests that are conducted, the more people are identified as infected. 

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, told reporters at a media briefing on Tuesday in Abuja that he was concerned over a World Health Organization (WHO) report on the limited quantities of vaccines by powerful nations. This concern has led the Nigerian government and other African countries to engage with Russia, China, and India.

“We have been keeping a strict eye on the vaccines and those who follow international news would have heard of the scramble for vaccines, which has pitted some countries against each other in Europe, as wealthy high-income countries have prepaid to allocate vaccines to them,” Ehanire stated at the brief.

The World Health Organization estimated 95% of vaccines manufactured globally have gone to only ten rich and powerful countries. Director-General of the WHO, Mr. Tedros Adhanom, has repeatedly stated that no country is safe until all countries are safe.

Kristi Pelzel is a Senior White House correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Kristi also covers the US Department of State and the United Nations. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University.

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