AFP
2 minute read
10 Feb 2021
9:27 pm

Ukraine probes Covid vaccine procurement corruption

AFP

Ukraine, struggling with a run-down health system, has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and nearly 24,000 deaths.

An elderly man receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on February 8, 2021 at the Tor Vergata hospital in Rome, as part of vaccinations for people over 80. - Italy is one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with over 2.6 million infections and more than 91,000 dead. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

President Volodymyr Zelensky has been criticised at home for failing to source Western-made vaccines, with a single dose yet to arrive in the ex-Soviet country.

In December, Ukraine agreed to buy nearly two million doses of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac in the country’s first commercial contract to purchase a coronavirus vaccine.

But some critics from opposition parties said the health ministry had overstated the cost of the vaccine in the deal, which provides a total of 1,913,316 doses at 504 hryvnia ($18) per shot.

“The National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) has indeed launched an investigation into the purchase of the vaccine,” top anti-corruption prosecutor Maksym Gryshchuk told a press conference in the capital Kiev on Wednesday.

He said that the probe was launched in early February, but refused to provide more details.

In addition to the Chinese-made vaccine, the country of some 40 million is also awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the United Nations Covax programme.

Zelensky has come under fire for his handling of the pandemic and opposition politicians and activists have said systemic corruption was behind the poor government response.

Pro-Western opposition lawmaker Oleksandra Ustinova last month accused Health Minister Maksym Stepanov of blocking purchases of Indian vaccines for $3 per dose — compared to the $18 Ukraine paid per dose for CoronaVac.

Critics also accuse Stepanov of engaging a Ukrainian intermediary firm, Lekhim, to buy the Chinese vaccine, saying it would have been cheaper to buy doses directly.

The minister has denied that he was behind the idea to use the intermediary company.

Ukraine, struggling with a run-down health system, has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and nearly 24,000 deaths.

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