Ghana Health Service justifies procurement of ‘expensive’ Sputnik-V vaccines

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The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has justified the government’s decision to procure Sputnik-V vaccines at an overpriced value.

The GHS said the government was compelled to rely on the market for the vaccines after it failed to procure supplies directly from the Russian government.

“It should be noted that US$ 10 price per dose which is being proposed as the correct price, is the ex-factory price which is only obtained from government to government arrangements. Government of Ghana was unable to obtain direct supplies from the Russian government as stated earlier, hence the resort to the market,” a statement signed by the Chief Director of the GHS, Kwabena Boadu Oku Afari said.

A Norweigian news tabloid, Verdens Gang had reported that Ghana has requested to purchase 3.4 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine through two businessmen who are selling it to Ghana at $19 per dose instead of the $10 per dose on the international market.

The initial price quoted for the vaccine was US$25, but it was negotiated downwards to US$19, according to the GHS.

The GHS explained that at the time of negotiating for the deal, “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 to 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,” the GHS added.

No swindling 

Despite concerns over the deal, the Health Committee in Parliament has insisted that the government is not being ripped off.

Speaking on Eyewitness News on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Health Committee, Dr. Nana Ayew Afriyie, said although the country has signed agreements with suppliers, none of the vaccines consignment has been received.

He argued that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the procurement of the Sputnik-V vaccines require the use of middlemen whose activities will lead to an increase in the original price of the jabs hence, the concerns being raised over ‘abnormal’ pricing are misplaced.

“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.”

The GHS rehashed this claim, saying an increment in the cost of the vaccines was as a result of a “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.”

Unfounded excuses 

The ranking member on Parliament’s Health Committee, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, however, believes the government is making up unfounded excuses to buy several doses of the Sputnik V vaccine at an overpriced value.

He said there can be no justifiable reason why the vaccine, which is sold on the international market for $10, should be bought by Ghana at $19 per dose through middlemen.

“The right thing must be done so that we don’t create any desperate situation to attempt to milk the system. What is preventing the Ghana government from dealing with the manufacturer directly or joining the AU or even using the COVAX vehicle,” he quizzed.

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