Acquiring Sputnik V vaccines directly from Russian government still unsuccessful – Foreign Minister

Foreign Affairs Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway has told Parliament that diplomatic engagements aimed at getting Sputnik V vaccines directly from the Russian government has still not been successful.

“As recent as 1st July, 2021, my Ministry on Behalf of the Ministry of Health, addressed a note verbale to the Russian Embassy in Accra, requesting the latter, to assist to establish direct contact with the Russian Direct Investment Fund for the purpose of the supply of vaccines to Ghana” Mrs Botchway revealed, when she addressed Parliament Thursday.

She explained that letters to the Russian government and personal engagements with foreign officials have yielded no results. This is despite her outfit’s dedication to access vaccines to give Ghanaians a fighting chance against Covid-19 and its diverse ever-emerging new waves.

“Although the diplomatic contacts with the Russians have, regrettably, not yielded the desired positive results, it is vital to underscore that the driving force behind the engagements that the Ministry undertook with the Russians, as well as all other foreign partners, was to satisfy the urgent need for Ghana to secure vaccines to prevent and control the Covi-19 infection,” Mrs Shirley Ayorkor Botchway explained.

The Foreign Affairs Minister further noted that, “in a bilateral meeting with the Russian government officials and the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Special President Representatives for the Middle-East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, I made Ghana’s commitment to investing in the Sputnik V vaccine, known to them, yet on several occasions, the request did not go through.”

Mrs Ayorkor Botchway’s explanation affirms Health Minister, Kwaku Agyemang Manu’s comment that he utilised middlemen to supply overpriced vaccines, because direct engagements with the Russian government yielded no results.

Mr Agyeman-Manu explained when he appeared before Parliament’s Committee probing the contract for the procurement of Sputnik V vaccines that, the non-availability of vaccines on the open market, coupled with failure to obtain it through government sources, as well as the rising cases of infections and deaths, forced him to disregard the required procedures in signing the contract to procure Sputnik V vaccines.

“I was in a desperate and helpless situation with the management of the Covid numbers. In February, we had 78 deaths; by March, we had 56 deaths, and these were the numbers that pushed me to act,” he said.

Mr Agyeman-Manu said he had to rely on the Executive Instrument 61 passed by Parliament and hide behind the emergency clauses that had been invoked to do that.

“I had plans to come to seek approval from the House after I have signed the contract. But [due to] my frustrations to try to get vaccines for us at the heat of the second wave, I relied on the Executive Instrument 61 passed by Parliament and hid behind emergency clauses that have been invoked to do that.”

“And I came to Parliament and informed the House that this is what I had done and, therefore, I need regularisation and approval to provide it,” he said.

Mr Agyeman-Manu assured the public that the Ministry would no longer proceed with any procurement without parliamentary approval.