Senegal in talks to procure Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine

The West African state is already participating in Covax, a global collaboration scheme with pharmaceutical firms to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

FILE: School students gather on their first day back at school in the popular Yoff neighbourhood in Dakar, Senegal, on 12 November 2020. Picture: JOHN WESSELS/AFP

DAKAR - Senegal is in talks to acquire 200,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, the government has said, intended as part of an imminent vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

The West African state is already participating in Covax, a global collaboration scheme with pharmaceutical firms to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

However, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said in a video posted on social media late Tuesday that, separately, Senegal is also in talks with China to procure its COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm.

The figure of 200,000 doses is a "working basis", Sarr explained, adding that the ministry intends to begin a roll-out "very soon".

As with other countries in Africa, Senegal's infection rate is far below levels reached in the West, having recorded over 21,000 coronavirus cases since March, with 480 deaths.

The poor nation of 16 million people is nonetheless battling a second wave of COVID-19, which forced the government to impose new restrictions last week.

"As well as Covax, we have to adopt a ... national strategy," Sarr said, explaining that health workers, the elderly and people with comorbidities will be prioritised for vaccination.

Some 20% of Senegal's population are initially expected to be innoculated, he added, but said the government aimed to become "more ambitious with time".

Sinopharm says its vaccine is 79% effective against the novel coronavirus, a figure lower than those announced by its western competitors Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna of 95 and 94% respectively.

On Sunday, the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles began vaccinating its population with Sinopharm -- becoming the first African nation to launch a Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

Sinopharm's vaccine is different from another Chinese anti-COVID jab, Coronavac.

On Tuesday, Brazil's Butantan Institute said tests on 12,500 volunteers showed that Coronavac had an efficacy of 50%, the minimum threshold set by the UN's World Health Organization (WHO).

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