Senegal pays $3.7 million for 200,000 doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal has paid a little over 2 billion CFA francs ($3.72 million) for 200,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine - nearly $19 per shot - developed by China’s Sinopharm, a finance ministry spokesman said on Friday.

A box AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines is seen at the Neurological and Functional Rehabilitation Centre of the CHU hospital, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Fraiture, Belgium, on February 12, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

African nations are struggling to procure vaccines in the global scramble for doses. Coverage secured through African Union (AU) and World Health Organization-backed (WHO) programs so far fall short of the continent’s needs.

Finance ministry spokesman Balle Preira confirmed the cost of the shots, which will cover only a fraction of its population of 16 million, without giving further details.

As a lower-middle income country, Senegal is eligible for around 1.3 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for free in the first wave of disbursement from the WHO’s COVAX program to provide vaccines globally.

Separately, the AU says it has secured roughly 670 million doses for the continent. Senegal is eligible to get 3.4 million vaccines for just under $23 million under the plan.

Those include over 620,000 doses of the Pfizer Inc two-shot vaccine at $6.75 per shot, more than 1.2 million of AstraZeneca’s two-shot vaccine at $3 each, and nearly 1.5 million of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine at $10 each.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall said this week he aims to start a vaccination campaign by the end of February. The West African nation has recorded about 30,000 cases and 735 deaths from COVID-19.

Senegal aims to inoculate around 90% of a targeted 3.5 million people including health workers and high-risk individuals between the age of 19 and 60 years old by the end 2021, a senior health ministry official told a forum on Friday.

Despite a relatively late start compared to Western vaccine producers, China is ramping up efforts to distribute its vaccines in Africa and elsewhere.

($1 = 537.5000 CFA francs)

Reporting by Diadie Ba; Additional reporting by David Lewis in Nairobi; Writing by Nellie Peyton and Bate Felix; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Grant McCool