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By Citizen Reporter


Russia wanted to donate 15m vaccines to SA, worth R2bn, but we said ‘no thanks’ – report

SA was concerned that Sputnik V may not be as effective as Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, but today the country remains woefully behind on its vaccination targets and Russia has been left 'annoyed'.

Rapport revealed on Sunday that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, offered to donate 15 million Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines to South Africa in February, but this was declined.

The Afrikaans weekly calculated that since the African Union has paid $9.75 (R131) per vaccine, that would put the value of the “goodwill donation” from South Africa’s partner in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) at more than R2 billion.

The gesture was supposedly declined due to concerns that Sputnik V had not been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and that it might prove to be ineffective against the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa, now known as the Beta variant.

The Russians have claimed that their vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-related death.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize then said at the end of April that he wanted to buy 5 million doses of Sputnik V, which could come at a cost of nearly R700 million. It would appear the goodwill gesture may therefore have been a once-off and that the looking of the gift horse in the mouth left the Russians “annoyed”.

However, a ministerial health advisor told the newspaper that Sahpra would not just approve Sputnik V for local use due to political pressure from government and to “appease the Russians”.

A distributor for Sputnik V in South Africa told Rapport he was hopeful that clinical research would show Sputnik V is also effective against the Beta variant.

South Africa has had a painfully slow vaccine rollout, due mainly to the limited availability of the only two vaccines approved for use, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. The distribution of Johnson & Johnson doses were also halted in the USA and locally, due to the possible contamination of a key ingredient in the product.

In April, South Africa temporarily suspended the rollout of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine as a precautionary measure after the United States FDA and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paused the rollout of the vaccine.

This followed reports of a rare clotting condition in six people out of 6.8 million doses administered.

South Africa’s vaccine rollout this week passed the 1 million mark. By Wednesday, more than 1.1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses had been administered with the target of inoculating two-thirds of all South Africans by May 2022.

This equates to 40 million people, meaning public and private healthcare facilities will need to increase the average daily tally to 120,000 doses. It is currently achieving just over 10,000 a day.

Compiled by Charles Cilliers

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