Uganda to purchase 18m doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Uganda to purchase 18m doses of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Government of Uganda will procure 18 million doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

The county is expected to spend around 351 Billion Shillings on the vaccines with each dose costing 19,498 shillings. For a complete dose, the government will spend 38,996 Shillings. This is 10,000 shillings cheaper than what the government had budgeted to spend on AstraZeneca vaccines.

According to the Director-General of health services Dr Henry Mwebesa, the government has already signed a commitment letter for the vaccines.

“The ministry received an offer of the availability of vaccines through the COVAX facility. The vaccine acquisition committee reviewed the offer and recommended the ministry pursue a cheaper and more reliable option. The Ministry of Health has signed a commitment letter with the COVAX facility for a total of 18 million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine under this arrangement,” Dr Mwebesa said in a statement released on Thursday.

The signing of a commitment means that the government had pledged to buy the given amount of vaccines through COVAX. This will be the second commitment that the government has signed following that of AstraZeneca that was signed last year.

However, due to the supply challenges in India, COVAX has not yet been able to fulfil its part of the earlier deal to provide the previously 18 million doses of the vaccine. At the time of the AstraZeneca deal, the vaccine was the cheapest option available that had been granted emergency use listing by the World Health Organization.

The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine received emergency approval from WHO in May this year. The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by the Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd.

The vaccine is a two-dose that is approved for use in persons aged 18 years and older. It is recommended the vaccines be taken within a three to four-week interval.

Efficacy studies show that the vaccine is estimated to be 79 per cent effective in protecting against symptomatic or severe disease across age groups.

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When asked if the government’s commitment to procure Sinopharm means that the vaccine will now become the primary source of protection against COVID-19, Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization said the country is not relying on only one vaccine.

“We are considering many vaccines. We are not looking at just AstraZeneca or Sinopharm. We are looking at other available options,” Dr Driwale said.

Uganda is going to procure Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the African Union (AU). According to the health ministry officials, the country is also looking at procuring Russia’s Sputnik V.

As of August 16, at least one million people in the country had received at least one shot of the vaccine. With a targeted 22 million people, Dr. Driwale says getting other available vaccines is a good thing since it means more vaccine options will be available.