Health Minister defends Sputnik-V purchase at premium rate

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The Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, has justified the government’s procurement of Sputnik-V vaccines at a premium rate despite concerns about the cost.

Ministry of Health has come under intense pressure following its decision to use intermediaries to secure over three million Sputnik-V vaccines from Russia at US$19 per jab, instead of the US$10 on the international market.

The Minority in Parliament accused the government of shortchanging the country and threatened to haul the minister before Parliament to answer for why Ghana was paying so much for the vaccine.

The Member of Parliament for Juaboso and Ranking Member on Health Committee, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, had said action would be taken because the Ministry’s justification for securing the vaccines at an above-standard price is unacceptable and very difficult to believe.

He described the ministry’s explanation as an excuse just to shortchange the country for very suspicious reasons.

However, Mr. Agyeman-Manu, who was commenting publicly on the matter for the first time, said Ghana had no choice but to procure the vaccines at an overpriced value.

Speaking at the launch of the Pest and Vector Control Association of Ghana in Accra, the Minister further explained that the procurement was due to the second wave of COVID-19  which had already claimed many lives.

“I had an obligation to try to see how we can arrive at our herd immunity. When we started looking for vaccines to procure, intermediaries were not part of our agenda. We were looking at what we will get from COVAX.  We could not have waited between March and August because we were in the second wave, and we were dying more than when we had the disease in 2020.”

“Basic economics will tell you that in terms of scarcity, the market is the suppliers’ market. He or she dictates the price, not the buyer. I am surprised. We all learned these things at O-level, so why should I be a subject of ridicule?” he asked.

Meanwhile, there have been calls for Mr. Agyeman-Manu to be dismissed since the news about the procurement came to the limelight.

A private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu, has argued that the Minister has not shown prudence in the handling of the procurement of the Sputnik V vaccine for the national inoculation exercise.

He said the least the President can do is to sack him.

“He should know that Ghanaians are very vigilant; so this one, I think the Health Minister has been too sloppy and the least the President can do is to sack him. The President should know that we are very angry with what the Health Minister has done, he has not shown prudence at all and has also shown no sensitivity to how Ghanaians react to issues of money.”

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