The Pricey Africa-Russia Vaccine Connection

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Russia has been trying to show its humanitarian side by selling vaccines to poorer countries that cannot offer manufacturers the same prices as wealthier nations.

But a shot of reality indicates the Russians are not being such good comrades after all.

According to the Financial Times, the African Union paid 2-to-3 times as much for the Russian Sputnik V than it did other vaccine types purchased from the manufacturer the Serum Institute of India.

From Russia Without Love

In Africa, most countries cannot afford to purchase vaccines. So they receive them from two main sources: donations by a WHO-endorsed coalition called Covax and procurements by the African Union.

The 55-member AU has secured about 1 billion doses of various vaccines, including 300 million of Sputnik V from the Kremlin-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund.

The RDIF bragged that its vaccine — registered in Russia since August — is basically as effective as the other types but costs half the price.

Reality Says Otherwise: These are the sales figures for one dose to the AU, obtained by the FT (except Johnson & Johnson all the vaccines require two doses).

  • Sputnik V: $9.75
  • Novavax and AstraZeneca/Oxford: $3
  • Johnson & Johnson: $10
  • BioNTech/Pfizer: $6.75

The AU has skipped buying the Moderna vaccine entirely, which costs $32 to $37 per dose. Moderna has sold 300 million doses to the U.S. and expects to make $18 billion off its Covid vaccine this year.

the takeaway

With the Covax-donated vaccines arriving slowly in Africa, wealthier countries have turned to expensive alternatives. South Africa recently paid $5.25 a dose for a batch of Oxford/AstraZeneca from Serum Institute of India.