The African Union will pay three times more for Russia’s Sputnik V than for the Oxford / AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, according to people familiar with the purchasing process.
The price of $ 9.75 per dose for 300 million doses of the Russian vaccine, developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute, undermines Moscow’s argument that it offers affordable jabs to countries whose price n is not concluded with western pharmaceutical groups.
The deals reached by the AU, which is fast becoming one of the world’s biggest vaccine buyers, provide rare insight into the price comparison of jabs, a topic manufacturers have sought not to be under the projectors.
“Africa is a key market for Sputnik V,” said the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a Kremlin-run wealth fund that oversees Sputnik V’s overseas sales. “Our international price a little less of $ 10 a dose is the same for all markets. ”
Sputnik V recipients require two doses, which means the cost per person is just under $ 20.
The RDIF boasted that the cost of the Russian vaccine is “twice as low as that of other vaccines with a similar rate of effectiveness,” and that its deals with poorer countries contrast with other manufacturers who have given the vaccine. priority to rich countries.
Kirill Dmitriev, Managing Director of RDIF, told the Financial Times: “Countries are really seeing, you know, a huge double standard from some western countries that have promised equal access and are simply buying for them. themselves. And they see significant inequality in the distribution of vaccines to favor rich countries. . . It is frankly unethical.
However, the price of the Russian vaccine, which will not start arriving in Africa until May, compares to the $ 3 dose the AU accepted for the Oxford / AstraZeneca and Novavax injections made by the Serum Institute of India, according to familiar people. with AU purchases.
The AU will pay $ 6.75 a dose for the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine and $ 10 for Johnson & Johnson’s, a single-dose product. He doesn’t buy any of the two-dose inoculations of Moderna, priced at $ 32 to $ 37 a dose.
In addition to the 300m of doses of Sputnik V, the AU says it has acquired provisional orders for 670m of doses of other jabs. It purchases vaccines on behalf of member states to supplement supplies from Covax, a World Health Organization-backed facility that provides free vaccines to 92 countries, many in Africa.
The AU declined to comment on the prices.
RDIF has said that the 92% efficacy, cost and ease of storage of its vaccine are “unique.” But scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week confirmed data showing that J & J’s jab – which can also be stored in a normal refrigerator – prevented serious or critical illness in 86 percent of U.S. participants and 82 percent in South Africa, where the 501.V2 variant was prevalent. Because only one injection of the J&J vaccine is needed, at $ 10, that would be almost half the price of Sputnik V.
The Oxford / AstraZeneca jab has been shown to be around 70% effective in clinical trials, while the BioNTech / Pfizer product, which must be stored frozen, has shown to be 95% effective.
African governments have been disappointed with the slow arrival of vaccines and, in a few cases, have struck costly side deals to secure the first supplies. South Africa ordered 1.5 million doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab from SII at $ 5.25 per dose, although it later halted the deployment after discovering that the shot might not prevent mild and moderate cases caused by the 501.V2 variant first discovered in the country.
This week, the first AstraZeneca vaccine supplied by Covax arrived in Africa when Ghana has taken delivery of 600,000 doses. Covax said he was paying $ 3 per dose for the jab, made in India.
Covax had initially hoped to distribute 15 million doses of the vaccine in Africa this month, with another 40 million arriving in March, although that timeline appears to have slipped. He pledged to provide doses sufficient to inoculate at least 20% of the population of eligible countries by the end of the year.
David Malpass, president of the World Bank, said it was true that manufacturers were diverting their supplies to richer countries that paid more. He called for less secrecy.
“We need the transparency of their contracts with Covax and the doses available from Covax for developing countries,” he said. “These will be essential to get the delivery schedules.”
African governments can access a $ 2 billion vaccination facility provided by the Cairo-based African Import-Export Bank as well as funding from the World Bank.
So far, China has provided few doses to Africa, raising questions about possible Chinese supply constraints. This month, Beijing donated 200,000 doses to Zimbabwe, a country on the verge of bankruptcy with which it enjoys close but strained relations.
Additional reporting by Sarah Neville in London, Stephanie Findlay in New Delhi, Hannah Kuchler in New York and Joe Miller in Frankfurt