Senegal takes delivery of China's Sinopharm vaccine

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal received its first delivery on Wednesday of COVID-19 vaccines, which it purchased from China’s Sinopharm.

Cargo containing China's Sinopharm coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is unloaded from a plane in Diass, Senegal, February 17, 2021, in this still image from video. Video taken February 17, 2021. RTS/Handout via REUTERS

Like other African countries that have struggled to procure vaccines, Senegal turned to China as it awaits disbursements through African Union and World Health Organization-backed (WHO) programmes.

The 200,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 100,000 people, arrived on a chartered Air Senegal flight from Beijing to Dakar, where they were received by President Macky Sall and the Chinese ambassador to Senegal.

“Today is a historic day,” Sall said. “We are in a new phase of our common combat against our common enemy.”

Sall said vaccinations would start “soon”. Senegal aims to inoculate around 90% of a targeted 3.5 million people, including health workers and high-risk individuals between the ages of 19 and 60 years old, by the end of 2021.

Senegal has a population of about 16 million.

As a lower-middle income country, Senegal is eligible for around 1.3 million doses for free in the first wave of disbursement from the WHO’s COVAX programme. But shipments are not expected to start until late February and most will arrive in March, the WHO said on Tuesday.

Last week Senegal said it had paid a little over 2 billion CFA francs ($3.71 million) for the Sinopharm doses to kickstart its vaccination campaign this month.

It has so far recorded over 31,000 cases and 769 deaths from COVID-19.

($1 = 539 CFA francs)

Reporting by Yvonne Bell and Bate Felix; Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Aaron Ross; Editing by Marguerita Choy