A medic receives Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine shot against Covid-19 in Tver, Russia. Picture: REUTERS/TATYANA MAKEVEVA
A medic receives Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine shot against Covid-19 in Tver, Russia. Picture: REUTERS/TATYANA MAKEVEVA

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the AU have discussed Covid-19 vaccine trial partnerships with both China and Russia, part of an effort to ensure Africa is not last in the queue for vaccines when they become available.

“We are not limiting ourselves to any particular partner,” John Nkengasong, head of Africa CDC, said on Tuesday at the Bloomberg Invest Africa online conference.

“As a continent of 1.2-billion people, we are willing to work with any partner who adheres to our strategy plan for vaccine development and access in Africa.”

There are already moves from the private sector. Earlier this month, Aspen Pharmacare announced a deal to make 300-million doses a year of US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s experimental inoculation, should it be approved.

Yet many the world’s richest nations and regions, such as the US and the EU, have arranged to buy hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, raising fears of delays for lower- and middle-income countries.

Africa CDC had talks last week with China’s ambassador to the AU about possible partnerships between Chinese vaccine manufacturing companies and clinical trial sites in Africa, Nkengasong said.

They’ve also been approached by Russia and have told that country they’re ready to work with them, he said.

The Sputnik V vaccine developed by scientists at Russia’s Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology, was registered in the country in August. Subsequent studies have shown that it’s more than 91% effective, according to the vaccine’s backers, though full results have not yet been released.

“The continent is taking the access and development of vaccine very, very seriously,” Nkengasong said. “We really need to see clinical trials being done on the continent so they address issues such as background infections from other diseases.”

Africa has been promised Covid-19 vaccines from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covax programme that would cover about 20% of its population, according to Nkengasong.

However, to get rid of the virus and achieve herd immunity “we need to vaccinate up to 60% of our population”, he said.

As Africa waits to hear how much it will receive of the $12bn (R184.92bn) set aside by the World Bank for developing countries to purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, it’s also speaking to other financiers.

This includes African Export-Import Bank, which has promised as much as $5bn to procure additional doses of vaccines.

“So there are multiple avenues being explored now to make sure Africa has the appropriate doses of vaccines and also that we have that in a timely fashion, not in a delayed manner,” Nkengasong said.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.