The Covid-19 vaccine roll-out effort is off to an
encouraging start throughout Africa as it is significantly aided by Chinese
To date, China has donated or sold vaccines to 19 African nations including South Africa’s neighbour, Zimbabwe. South Africa, a Covid-19 hotbed and global focal point thanks to the N501Y mutation of the coronavirus, has only considered J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer as suitable vaccines so far.
Senegal, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe received shipments of the China-produced Sinopharm jabs in February as China, a trade ally to almost all African countries, ramps up its vaccine diplomacy.
Zimbabwean officials received an initial donation of 200 000 vaccines from China in late February. That number was doubled to 400 000 in the following days as an act of “solidarity and action” between the two nations. The initial shipments of the life-saving shots will be distributed among health care workers, journalists, security forces, and other essential workers, according to The Sunday Times.
Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said, via Twitter, that Harare would purchase a further 1.2 million Sinopharm doses. The additional vaccines would be purchased at a preferential price, said Charamba.
Namibia, another sub-Saharan nation battling the pandemic, said it was expecting a shipment of 100 000 doses of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines in February.
Ambassador to Namibia, Zhang Yiming, said China had
prioritised Namibia and 52 other developing nations. Beijing was coordinating with Namibian
officials to expedite the process.
In late February South African health minister, Zweli Mkhize confirmed the Sinopharm shot was being considered and the known data looked “very promising”. Included on the list of potential vaccine candidates were the Chinese-manufactured Sinovac and Russia’s Sputnik vaccine developed by Gamaleya.
Mkhize said non-disclosure agreements had been formalised and negotiations were in advanced stages. Discussions regarding prices were not yet finished.
At present South Africa only considers vaccines from J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer to be ready for safe use and is waiting for more data from other candidates. The Novavax and AstraZeneca vaccines which South Africans had pinned their hopes on are largely ineffective against the N501Y variant. South African officials have had to move to ship, trade, or donate the doses before they expire.