Zimbabwe in talks with Russia for Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine – report

Zimbabwe is in talks with Russia for a consignment of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, a report quoting the Russian embassy says.

Anastasia Samoylenko, a spokesperson for the embassy, said talks were ongoing, but no details were yet available on vaccine quantity or timelines.

“Negotiations are going on between our Government and the Government of Zimbabwe. We are working out on the modalities. At the moment, the Embassy does not have information on when the vaccines will come to Zimbabwe, or the quantities, but once that information is available, we will let you know,” Samoylenko told the state-owned Sunday Mail.

On Thursday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe would receive receive 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines from China.

Zimbabwe is also eligible for three million vaccines under an African Union facility, and can also access 1.1 million additional doses under COVAX, a facility meant to allow fair vaccine distribution around the world. However, Zimbabwe is yet to formally express interest in taking up its allocations, still waiting to finalise its vaccine rollout plan.

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Sputnik V can be stored in a fridge rather than a freezer, making it easier to distribute for countries such as Zimbabwe.

Vaccine distribution

For Zimbabwe, the choice of which vaccine to use will be determined by “country” context, according to Agnes Mahomva, who heads Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 response.

“Work in this area (vaccine plan) is at an advanced stage with a detailed strategic vaccine framework now in place. The framework covers 12 key strategic areas in line with WHO and AU or Africa CDC guidelines. Some of the key strategies include first careful review of the country context in which the vaccines are to be introduced,” says Mahomva.

‘‘Clarity on this is very important as this has big implications on how we manage all the vaccine deployment processes,” she said.

Russia started using the Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use in August 2020, becoming the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine was initially met with suspicion by critics, but peer-reviewed tests have found that it is 92% effective. It has, so far, been approved for use in at least 20 countries. 

Guinea became the first African nation to start dispensing Sputnik V in December.