Why Ghana bought Sputnik V for $19 instead of $10
The government did no wrong in buying Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine at an exorbitant price because it was due to the involvement of middlemen, the Ministry of Health has said.
The Chief Director at the MoH, Mr Kwaku Boadu Oku-Afari explained the double price at which Ghana made the procurement after a backlash.
According to him, the government had made several efforts to acquire the vaccines from the Russian government directly but to no avail.
So, even though the vaccine costs $10 per dose at the factory, Ghana had to pay $19 per dose due to the involvement of intermediaries.
In a press release dated June 9, 2021, the MoH explained that they got 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,”
“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 explained.
The MoH further explained that they were offered the vaccines at a price of $25 dollars.
But they were able to negotiate for the price to be reduced to $19.
According to the ministry, they had made arrangements under the guidance of laid down principles for the vaccine, including market authorization, availability, quality, safety, efficacy, ease of administration, storage and cost.
So far, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has given approval for AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to be used in Ghana.
Red flags by Norwegian news outlet
The ministry’s response follows the publication by a Norwegian newspaper, Verdens Gang, on June 3.
The publication alleged that Ghana reached an agreement on 3.4 million vaccines doses after the health officials had been shown boxes containing a total of 16,000 doses.
They raised concerns about the involvement of the middlemen who are making huge profits from the deal.
“It is 3 March and the moment of truth for Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu. 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.
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.
However, Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta, said they took the action to save the lives of Ghanaians due to the difficulty in getting the vaccines from the manufacturer.
“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.”
Justification by Parliament’s Health Committee
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Parliament’s Health Committee, Dr Nana Ayew Afriyie, maintained that the persons involved in the deal have not fleeced Ghana.
“We have not been swindled as a State. Even though we are in a desperate state to get vaccines, the policy of the government which is a very good one is to get business persons to go into the Sputnik V space.
“Yes, the factory price is US$ 10 but when you get expatriates, and it gets out of the factory, there are a lot of factors that come in including the profit, commission and freight to Ghana. So you don’t expect a vaccine that costs US$ 10 at the factory to be the same price when it arrives in Ghana especially when a middleman is getting it,” he told Joy FM.
Sputnik V trials in Ghana
The development has raised a lot of questions over the government’s failure to acquire the Sputnik V directly from Russia as Ghana was one of three countries that availed itself for the vaccine trials.
In March 2021, Russian developers of the Sputnik V said they had applied for domestic approval of a single-dose “light” version, and that trials of it in Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Ghana had been successful.
Arsen Kubataev, a representative of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, expressed optimism after the trial.
Meanwhile, ranking member on Parliament’s Health Committee, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, has found the government’s explanations to be untenable.
For him, “the right thing must be done so that we don’t create any desperate situation to attempt to milk the system”.
He has questioned why the government cannot deal with the manufacturer directly or join the AU or even use the COVAX facility under which Ghana acquired the vaccines that have been administered so far.
Ghana received 600,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca formula in February 2021 to commence the vaccination programmes with the targets of reaching 20million residents.
In May, 350,000 doses of the same Oxford/AstraZeneca was received by Ghana for the second jabs to be administered to ensure maximum protection against contracting the infection.
About 900,000 people have received the vaccines as the government makes efforts to expand the vaccination programme.