Senegal seeking vaccines beyond WHO-backed COVAX scheme

A health worker takes a swab sample from a man for a rapid antigen test as hundreds of thousands of Senegalese Mouride Brotherhood pilgrims gather for the annual Grand Magal festival, as the global spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the holy city of Touba, Senegal October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal is trying to acquire coronavirus vaccines to complement those it will get through the World Health Organization-backed global COVAX scheme, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told reporters on Thursday.

Senegalese President Macky Sall this week announced a state of emergency to deal with a surge in infections.

Unlike Europe, the United States and China, where large-scale vaccination campaigns are under way, most African countries have so far been unable to secure vaccine supply deals with drug companies.

That has left some of the world’s poorest countries relying on the COVAX alliance, which says it has reached agreements to secure nearly 2 billion doses, and aims to deliver 1.3 billion of these in 2021 to 92 eligible low- and middle-income nations.

COVAX is jointly led by the WHO, the GAVI vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Sarr did not lay out how Senegal planned to pay for the vaccines that it wanted to buy independently, but said a purchasing plan would be put to the president.

He said the selection of shots in the COVAX initiative was in the final phase and that vaccines would be ready by the end of the first quarter. He also said the vaccines to be purchased should be the same as those being supplied by COVAX.

Reporting By Bate Felix; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Kevin Liffey