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Senegal in talks to buy COVID vaccine from China's Sinopharm, says minister

DAKAR (Reuters) - Senegal is in talks to buy at least 200,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said on Wednesday.

Senegal this month said it would buy extra vaccines to complement those it will get through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX scheme, which aims to deliver 1.3 billion doses this year to 92 low- and middle-income nations.

A deal with Sinopharm could help Senegal start vaccinations before COVAX kicks in, a small boost for a country where cases this month have surged to record highs and intensive care beds are full.

But it would cover only a tiny fraction of the country's 16 million population and is dwarfed by the millions of vaccines that have already been given in Europe and the United States. Most African countries have so far been unable to secure vaccine supply deals with drug companies.

Senegal has so far recorded more than 21,600 cases and 480 deaths.

A Chinese vaccine would be a good fit for Senegal, which does not have the cold storage capacity to hold vaccines that require ultra-low temperatures.

Vaccines that do not need a deep freeze include those developed by China, Russia and AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

"We're in talks with the Chinese side to acquire Sinopharm vaccines," Sarr said on local radio.

Sarr said 200,000 doses was the volume being discussed as a minimum.

"We'll see if we will have to limit ourselves," he said without sharing details.

(Reporting by Diadie Ba; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister and Nick Macfie)

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