Other African countries are rapidly rolling out China’s vaccine – as SA awaits more data

Business Insider SA
A vaccination, using the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccin
A vaccination, using the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, at the Chivhere Village Clinic in the rural Zvimba of Zimbabwe, on 23 February 2021.
  • At least four other African countries have already started rolling out the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, and two more already have doses at the ready.
  • Countries on the continent are increasingly turning to China, as they struggle to secure commercial supplies elsewhere, that country says.
  • As of this week, South Africa is officially interested in China's two vaccine offerings, but still awaiting technical data before making any decisions.
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Other African countries are now rolling out Covid-19 vaccines from China at a rapid rate, while South Africa is still waiting on technical data before taking up an offer of "several millions" of doses across China and Russia's manufacturers.

African countries that find themselves unable to procure vaccines elsewhere are "increasingly turning to China", that country says, rather than waiting for doses secured via the African Union, or the global Covax project.

Zimbabwe, the Seychelles, Egypt and Morocco are already injecting mostly health workers with the Covid-19 vaccine made by Sinopharm. 

Both Senegal and Equatorial Guinea recently receive doses of the same vaccine, but have yet to start rolling those out.

Other vaccines are still thinly used. Beyond South Africa's pioneering use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, immunisation campaigns are only active in Mauritius, Algeria, and Rwanda.

As of mid-week, more than 216 million doses of vaccine had been administered around the world.

The Sinopharm shot is on the list of vaccine candidates "in which we have an interest and appear very promising on available data", health minister Zweli Mkhize said this week. Others on that list include fellow Chinese maker Sinovac's vaccine, and the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia's Gamaleya.

Non-disclosure agreements have been signed and "negotiations are advanced" with those manufacturers, Mkhize said – and between them they have offered "several millions of vaccines", though price negotiations have not been concluded.

But South Africa is still awaiting technical information before making any commitments.

SA currently considers only the vaccines from J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer to be ready for implementation. 

The vaccines from Novavax, and the AstraZeneca vaccine on which SA had been due to rely on almost entirely, are now classed as not suitable for immediate use.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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