Sputnik V US$19 per dose: Ghana was unable to obtain direct supplies from Russia – MoH

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The Ministry of Health (MoH) has explained that the Ghana government was unable to obtain direct supplies from Russia for the supply of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines hence the use of middlemen who offered to sell the vaccine at US$19 per dose instead of the US$10 at ex-factory price.

The Chief Director at the MoH, Mr Kwaku Boadu Oku-Afari gave the explanation in a press statement issued on Wednesday night, June 9, 2021.

Responding to a media publication regarding overpriced purchase of Sputnik V vaccines, the MoH said the move was against the background of non-response from direct channels and global shortages of the vaccine.

It confirmed the MoH on March 9, 2021 responded to an offer from the private office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the supply of a total quantity of 3.4 million doses of Sputnik V vaccines, at a unit cost of US$19.  

“The unit price was negotiated at a meeting held at MoH, with representatives from MoH and Office of Dalmook Al Maktoum, who had travelled to Accra for the purpose. The MoH, after ascertaining the type and nature of the vaccine, through the delivery of 15,000 doses, placed an order for the supply of 300,000 doses of the vaccine at a cost of US$5,700,000,” the statement said.

“This is yet to be delivered. This undertaking includes an option to opt out of any obligations if supply conditions are not met,” the statement added.

A report by a Norwegian newspaper published on June 3, 2021, alleges that the Ghana government has signed a contract for the purchase of Sputnik V vaccine with an Emirati official which it said was involved in the controversial Ameri power deal and a Norwegian citizen charged with money laundering in Norway.

The newspaper alleges that Ghana is buying the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine produced in Russia for $19 per dose from the businessmen instead of $10.

According to the report published on www.vg.no, government signed the purchase contract for 3.4 million doses of the vaccine after it received an initial 16,000 doses from the two aforementioned names on March 3, 2021.

“It is 3 March and the moment of truth for Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu (65). A flight from the Emirates is taxiing to the terminal in Accra, capital of Ghana, where the Minister of Health is waiting. Out step two men: One is a Sheikh and second cousin of the ruler of Dubai. The other has been on the run from Norwegian police for years.

“Boxes containing a total of 16,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V are unloaded from the plane and placed in front of the Minister of Health. Six days later, the Ministry of Health in Ghana signs an agreement with the Sheik. They announce that they have reached an agreement regarding the purchase of 3.4 million vaccine doses. No price is publicly disclosed,” the report said.

It added that although the contract was for 3.4 million sold doses of the vaccine, the Ministry of Finance had only paid for 300,000 doses.

According to the publication, when the Ministry of Health was contacted to respond to the story, “a group of bureaucrats” told the newspaper that their job was to pay at the end of the day after the contract had been signed.

The Ministry of Finance in response to the story said the vaccines were purchased to “protect” people.

The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, when asked why he purchased the vaccine for $19 per dose, was quoted as saying: “I don’t know. You know, you are confronted with “the good guys” from the West not giving you any assurances of supply [of vaccines], and you have 30 million people and are to save lives. You know, it’s easy to sit somewhere else and say: Why are you doing this? But you need to make sure you protect your people. You manage that as well as you can. This is a all a contrived and manufactured crisis, because clearly there’s enough [vaccines] to go around if only there was equity and justice in what we are doing.”

MoH response

Responding, the MoH said the Minister of Health in exercise of the powers conferred on him under section 169 of the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851) by Executive Instrument declared the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) a public health emergency in March 2020.

It said the government has since committed to protecting the population by working towards achieving the thresholds for “herd immunity” against the disease through vaccination, in accordance with WHO guidelines.

The MoH, made arrangements for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, guided by laid down principles for the vaccine, including market authorization, availability, quality, safety, efficacy, ease of administration, storage and cost. So far, the only COVID-19 vaccines the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has authorized for use in Ghana are AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and quite recently Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

It said the MoH has, since early this year, made several efforts to procure the Sputnik V vaccine directly by engaging the Russian authorities, such as the Russian Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the CEO of Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), and the CEO of Limited Liability Company “Human Vaccine. Meetings were also held with the Deputy Ambassador of Russia in Ghana.

The MoH also engaged individual Ghanaians and companies for the supply of various types of COVID-19 vaccines. Unfortunately, none of these efforts have yielded any results till date.

It said it based on the non response from the direct channels that the offer from the Sheihk’s office was accepted.

It added that it should be noted that the US$10 price per dose, which is being proposed as the correct price, is the ex-factory price, which is only obtained from the government to government arrangements. The government of Ghana was unable to obtain direct supplies from the Russian government as stated earlier, hence the resort to the market.

The initial price quoted US$25, but this was negotiated downwards to US$19. This is the result of the cost build-up to the ex-factory price of US$10 per dose, taking into account land transportation, shipment, insurance, handling and special storage charges, as explained by the seller. These are the factors which led us to agree the final price of US$19 per dose.

It should be noted that, at the time of the negotiations, as is the case now, there was scarcity or non-availability of the vaccines on the market.

Ghana had also been informed by COVAX that the AstraZeneca vaccines would not arrive till the end of June 2021, so we were operating severely in the suppliers’ market.

We were torn between accepting the price to enable us have access to the vaccine or facing the situation of the seller withdrawing from the negotiations, to the extent that the 15,000 doses that had been shipped to Ghana were going to be rerouted to other countries.

Several other individuals and Ghanaian companies, who have given the MoH indications of capacity to supply Sputnik V vaccine, have been engaged accordingly, but, so farm without any results. The Public Procurement Authority (PPA) has been duly engaged in these processes.

It said the MoH has consequently undertaken to place batch orders for quantities of the vaccine based on national need and availability of storage space. The MoH, therefore, assures all that it will endeavour to secure vaccines for the Ghanaian people, despite global shortages and cognizant of price and legal considerations.

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