DAKAR, Feb 17 (Reuters) – Senegal is expecting its first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday after paying for 200,000 doses from China’s Sinopharm.
Like other African countries that have struggled to procure vaccines, Senegal is still waiting for disbursements through African Union and World Health Organization-backed (WHO) programmes.
In the meantime, some have turned to purchases or donations from China. Despite a relatively late start compared to Western producers, China is ramping up efforts to distribute its vaccines in Africa and elsewhere, some as direct aid.
President Macky Sall will be at Dakar’s airport for the arrival of the first doses from China in the afternoon, his spokesman Ousmane Ba said.
It was not clear how many doses would be in the first shipment or when vaccinations might start.
As a lower-middle income country, Senegal is eligible for around 1.3 million doses for free in the first wave of disbursement from the WHO’s COVAX programme. But shipments are not expected to start until late February and most will arrive in March, the WHO said on Tuesday.
Last week Senegal said it had paid a little over 2 billion CFA francs ($3.71 million) for the Sinopharm doses to kickstart its vaccination campaign this month.
It aims to inoculate around 90% of a targeted 3.5 million people, including health workers and high-risk individuals between the ages of 19 and 60 years old, by the end of 2021.
It has so far recorded over 31,000 cases and 769 deaths from COVID-19.
($1 = 539 CFA francs) (Reporting by Yvonne Bell and Bate Felix Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Aaron Ross and Angus MacSwan)
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