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Botswana pays equivalent of $15 a dose for Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine

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GABORONE, July 30 (Reuters) - Botswana's health minister said on Friday that the government was paying the equivalent of $15 a dose for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech and almost $29 a dose for U.S. company Moderna's shot.

African countries have struggled to procure enough vaccines in the global scramble for doses, with coverage secured through World Health Organization (WHO) and African Union (AU)-backed schemes so far falling short of the continent's needs.

Under pressure over a recent spike in COVID-19 infections, health minister Edwin Dikoloti revealed how much the diamond-rich southern African country was paying in bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies Sinovac, Moderna and India's Bharat Biotech.

Dikoloti said in an address to parliament that Botswana had signed agreements to pay $3 million for 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, $14.44 million for 500,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine, and $1.6 million for 100,000 doses from Bharat Biotech. The Bharat Biotech deal works out at $16 per shot.

The minister added that the COVAX facility co-led by the WHO had only delivered 82,000 doses despite an upfront payment the government had made as a self-financing participant, hoping to secure far more doses.

An AU arrangement is expected to deliver over 1.1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in the third and fourth quarters.

Botswana has currently only fully vaccinated around 124,000 of its 2.3 million population.

Apart from the shots it is paying for, the Indian government donated 30,000 doses of the COVISHIELD vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and China donated 200,000 doses of Sinovac's vaccine. Botswana is still in talks with Pfizer about a possible 2 million dose deal, Dikoloti said.

(Reporting by Brian Benza Writing by Alexander Winning)

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