In sub-Saharan Africa, the time is not yet for vaccination, but Guinea began vaccination sessions against the new coronavirus on Wednesday, December 30, on an experimental basis, using the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Image at support, the Minister of Defense, Mohamed Diané, a scientist by training, was the first to receive the vaccine developed by the Russian national center of epidemiology and microbiology Gamaleïa, said the National Health Security Agency (ANSS).
The choice of a trial period
Guinea has chosen to vaccinate initially a small number of volunteers of a certain age, explained to Agence France-Presse the communications officer of the ANSS, Sory II Kéira. Guinea has obtained 60 doses of the vaccine, he said. After this pilot phase, the Guinean authorities will decide whether or not to extend vaccination, he added without mentioning a deadline. “The example from above,” wrote the Minister of Defense on his Facebook page next to a photo of him receiving the injection in the shoulder in an undershirt. “As a geneticist, I have complete confidence in the progress of research and science. We will overcome the pandemic, all together! ” he added.
Supply through the Covax network or through bilateral agreements
The bet is far from won for the Guinean authorities who said a few weeks ago that they had not made a choice on the vaccine strategy. “For the moment, Guinea has not made a choice of vaccine,” said the director general of the National Health Security Agency, Sakoba Keita. We signed up for the Covax network run by Gavi. You know, it’s Gavi that funds our expanded immunization program. So it is through them that we will be supplied with vaccines because they have mobilized resources to pay for a certain number of countries, numbering 92, including Guinea. But they are still waiting for the WHO to validate a certain number of vaccines, ”he continues in the columns of Africaguinée.com. Clarification: Guinea has also chosen to try another path, that of seeing with the countries manufacturing the vaccine, in particular Russia.
Indeed, Covax is an international mechanism, created this summer by the World Health Organization, which should make it possible to acquire 51.6 million additional vaccines. It is precisely Covax which negotiates a fair distribution of vaccines with the laboratories. It has set itself the goal of providing at least 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 to immunize 20% of the most vulnerable people in 92 poor and middle-income countries.
However, time is running out and, if developed countries are the first on the list of laboratory customers, developing countries may not receive the vaccines for two years, or more according to several studies. Noting that funding is not progressing as quickly as expected, some African states have therefore started to negotiate bilateral agreements with certain countries, such as China and Russia, to obtain vaccines.
Sputnik V in the geopolitics of vaccines
Russia began injecting Sputnik V on December 5 into workers at risk. Authorities are counting on the vaccine to stem the spread of the disease that has made Russia one of the most affected countries in the world. Before Guinea, Belarus, Russia’s neighbor, but also Argentina have announced that they are starting to vaccinate with Sputnik V. Guinea has declared more than 13,000 cases of contamination and 80 deaths from the new coronavirus. Several political figures have thus succumbed.
Guinea’s interest in Sputnik V must be understood in the light of Guinea’s own history. Indeed, it must be remembered that the Soviet Union was among the first supporters of young independent Guinea, in 1958. In recent years, Russia has made a comeback in economic, health and military cooperation. In 2018, Russian doctors at the base of the Russian-Guinean Medical Center in Kindia developed a new version of the vaccine against the Ebola virus.
Various strategies for vaccine supply
There are also other avenues for the African continent. The African Union has made a commitment to vaccinate at least 60% of the population by counting on the mobilization of 12 billion dollars from the Covax initiative, on the one hand, but also from the World Bank and the Bank. African development, on the other hand. But other approaches are still possible, such as that of Morocco. The Cherifian kingdom has chosen to negotiate directly with the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm and the British AstraZeneca for its vaccination campaign.
In the meantime, according to estimates by Guinean health authorities, the country would need more than 2 million doses of vaccine to cope with the mass vaccination of grassroots populations. The Guinean head of state, Alpha Condé, will himself be vaccinated in the coming days. The health crisis coincided with months of political crisis caused by the candidacy of President Alpha Condé, since re-elected, for a third consecutive term. Human rights defenders accused the power of using the pandemic pretext to quell the protest, which authorities have denied. Guinea had been severely affected by hemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola virus. It had caused 2,500 victims there between the end of 2013 and 2016.