Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine meeting the African continent’s urgent need for COVID-19 vaccination

Russia has prioritized its commitment to supply affordable Coronavirus vaccines to Africa partner countries. Ghana News Agency (GNA) announced last week that Ghana would be the 5th state in Africa to register to receive Russia’s Sputnik V, expected to arrive by March. The African Union, also announcing its Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) has received an offer of 300 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V.

A growing list of countries is approving Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, at efficacy of 91.6 percent, making it one of only three vaccines worldwide with an efficacy of over 90 percent.

Russian vaccine developers work collaboratively with AstraZeneca trials to improve the efficacy of the Sputnik V and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. This is good news for Ghana since they have applied for two vaccines, Covishield; the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured in India and Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, manufactured in Russia.

John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Director, said at least 26 countries submitted applications to acquire 180 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and the additional 300 million Sputnik V vaccines, will speed up online vaccine pre-orders for African Union member states. “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 (African Medical Supplies Platform) for our African Union member states,” Dr Nkengasong said.

Despite early criticisms that Sputnik V was developed with “haste and cut corners,” a well-known medical journal, The Lancet is backing up the readiness of the vaccine. That has not stopped politics from playing into global health.

Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, stated in Politico this month, “Overall I must say we still wonder why Russia is offering theoretically millions and millions of doses while not sufficiently progressing in vaccinating their own people. This is also a question that I think should be answered.” What would further solidify the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine is approval from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The application for approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus was submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO) last month. Approval, which is still pending, will mean international procurement agencies can use the Russian vaccine for bulk purchase. While the WHO continues to perform independent analysis on Sputnik V that has not, and will not, stop Russia from taking orders and supplying hundreds of millions of doses to countries all over the world.

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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