Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is a specialized technical institution of the African Union (AU) that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
During the outbreak of the coronavirus, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), was established by African Union, as a component in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy and was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Heads of State and Government on 20th of August 2020.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has emphasized: “Africa has to team up with development partners to achieve its 60% continent-wide vaccination in the next two years. I think that is why we should as a collective of the continent, and of course, in partnership with the developed world make sure that Africa has a timely access to vaccines to meet our vaccination targets.”
An official media release in February 2021, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team from the African Union (AU) informed that Russia would supply and deliver 300 million Sputnik V vaccines by May to Africa. That step was intended to support African countries to attain their targeted immunization of 60% of the population by the year-end. That 300 million Sputnik vaccine story suddenly disappeared, but instead what becomes so common, since then, is the speedy registration of Sputnik V on bilateral basis in various African countries.
According to the latest, Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. The use of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has been approved in Nigeria, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in an official statement.
“The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) announces the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control of Nigeria (NAFDAC). Nigeria has become the 68th country in the world to approve the Russian vaccine. Total population of all countries, where Sputnik V is approved for use, now exceeds 3.7 billion people, which is nearly half of the global population,” the statement said.
“Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and the approval of Sputnik V will provide for using one of the safest and most effective vaccines in the world. Sputnik V is based on a proven human adenoviral vectors platform and is successfully used in over 50 countries. Approval in Nigeria will make an important contribution to the country’s fight against the pandemic,” CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.
Besides Nigeria, other African countries have registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Reportedly, the vaccine has been registered in Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tunisia, the Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.
South Africa and Russia both members of BRICS. Majority of these African countries, where Sputnik V was registered, could not get supplies to purchase as promised. Ethiopian Ambassador to Moscow, Alemayehu Tegenu Aargau, said in an interview that he expected the “supplies of the Russian vaccine in Ethiopia in the nearest future, after all the technical issues are finalized” to boost its domestic vaccination in the country of approximately 109 million population.
Russia’s drive to share Sputnik V vaccine, of course, offers a chance to raise its image and strengthen alliances in Africa. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has made efforts promoting the vaccine using all its channels. But supply and delivery have largely lagged behind, the pledges have simply not been fulfilled. Russian authorities have oftentimes said that they would step up efforts for fruitful cooperation in combating coronavirus in Africa.
Promising more than can be delivered appears to be a universal problem with coronavirus vaccines, and it is a real risk for Russia as well, said Theresa Fallon, Director of the Brussels-based Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies. “They have won the gold medal for creating this very effective vaccine,” she said. “But the problem is how are they going to implement production and delivery?”
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), with profit motivation, has attempted supplying the Russian vaccines through, Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum, from the Monarch family and a third party in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to a number of African countries. For instance, the Republic of Ghana reportedly signed US$64.6 million contract for Sputnik V vaccine from Russia through Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum. It was double the price from the producer as reported in the local media.
The Health Ministry of the Republic of Ghana said, Sputnik V was registered in February 2021, and it had tried and failed to secure the vaccine through contacts directly with the Russian government, the Russian Embassy in Ghana and Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). With rising numbers of the virus and no other suitable options, it eventually turned to make an express order from Aurugulf early March.
Russia has awarded an Emirati royal exclusive rights to sell its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to a host of countries in, at least, three continents in a deal that has seen buyers paying huge premiums for supplies, according to investigations reported in July by The Moscow Times.
The newspaper report explained further that it was an arrangement between the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Aurugulf Health Investments, an Abu Dhabi-based company established with close connections to Emirati royalty.
RDIF granted Aurugulf exclusive rights to sell and distribute its flagship Sputnik V vaccine in countries around the world with Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al-Maktoum, a low-ranking Dubai royal, acting as the chief dealmaker, wrote The Moscow Times.
On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted, in a speech early September, that advanced countries that produce vaccines against the coronavirus do little to protect humanity from the pandemic.
“The benefits of vaccination are enjoyed mostly by advanced economies. The bulk of the vaccines is made there, and it is used to protect their own population. But very little is being done to protect humanity in the broad sense,” Putin said at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia. “This is very bad for the producers, because all this boomerangs around the globe. For instance, in Africa the level of protection with vaccines is minimal, but contacts with the African countries continue. There is no getting away from this. This infection will return again and again.”
According to an official release obtained late February, it was reported that the Sputnik V vaccine the following advantages:
• Efficacy of Sputnik V is 91.6% as confirmed by the data published in the Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most respected medical journals; It is one of only three vaccines in the world with efficacy of over 90%; Sputnik V provides full protection against severe cases of COVID-19.
• The Sputnik V vaccine is based on a proven and well-studied platform of human adenoviral vectors, which cause the common cold and have been around for thousands of years.
• Sputnik V uses two different vectors for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots.
• The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades.
• The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine are working collaboratively with AstraZeneca on a joint clinical trial to improve the efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine.
• There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V.
• The price of Sputnik V is less than $10 per shot, making it affordable around the world.
In February, peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet published an analysis from Phase III clinical trial of the Russian vaccine, showing its 91.6-percent efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Sputnik V was registered in Russia on August 11, 2020 as the world’s first officially registered coronavirus vaccine. Russian vaccines have advantages as no deaths have been reported after vaccination with the Sputnik V, Alexander Gintsburg, Director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, said as reported by TASS News Agency. “As of today, no deaths after vaccination with Sputnik V have been registered,” he said.
Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund established in 2011 to make equity co-investments, primarily in Russia, alongside reputable international financial and strategic investors. RDIF acts as a catalyst for direct investment in the Russian economy. RDIF’s management is based in Moscow.
WHO has spelled out the danger of leaving Africa so poorly covered by vaccines. Indeed, African countries “have been left behind by the rest of the world,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a special briefing on vaccine equity in Africa in September. The primary reason is that African countries do not have the capacity or experience to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, and that leaves people at high risk of disease and death, and are simply exposed to a deadly virus.
“This doesn’t only hurt the people of Africa, it hurts all of us. The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, the longer the social and economic disruption will continue, and the higher the chances that more variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective.” added Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Ghebreyesus further informed that, so far, just two countries in Africa have reached the 40% target, the lowest of any region. More than 5.7 billion vaccines doses have been administered globally, but only 2% of them in Africa.
For a long-term solution, African leaders need to rally together to ensure that no effort is spared in facilitating and supporting the building of large-scale vaccine manufacturing capacity on the continent. In the short term, Africa really needs the developed world, as it has no vaccine of its own. The cost of vaccinating 60% of Africa’s 1.3 billion people is estimated between US$10 billion and US$15 billion, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control.
From various indications, it’s still far behind the rest of the world in terms of acquisition and inoculations. With commitment to overcome the pandemic, African leaders, however, remain resolute at ensuring the welfare of their entire population, while the African Union, regional blocs and individual governments make frantic efforts to acquire adequate vaccines through bilateral and multilateral agencies.
In Africa, during first of September, the total number of COVID-19 cases reached almost 8 million, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Office for Africa. In December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization about the outbreak of the disease in the city of Wuhan in China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have spread around the world. […..]