The African Union (AU) has started the distribution of 400 million Covid vaccines to member states, an Africa CDC statement said on Thursday.
The statement, which quoted Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa and AU COVID-19 Champion, said that several countries will receive the first of the monthly shipments on Thursday, with at least 6.4 million doses expected to be distributed in August.
It added that the organisation aimed to deliver 50 million doses of the vaccines by December, ramping it up to 25 million a month by January 2022.
The COVID-19 vaccines were acquired by the AU/African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), an initiative that came to be in March after member states agreed to combine their purchasing power and source vaccines together.
The countries decided to buy the 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
According to the statement, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was selected for this first pooled procurement for three reasons: as a single-shot vaccine, it is easier and cheaper to administer; the vaccine has a long shelf-life and favourable storage conditions. Last but not least, the vaccine is partly manufactured on the African continent, with fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa.
“This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people,” Ramaphosa said.
“By working together and by pooling resources, African countries have been able to secure millions of vaccine doses produced right here in Africa.
“This will provide impetus to the fight against COVID-19 across the continent and will lay the basis for Africa’s social and economic recovery.”
The 400 million vaccines should be enough to immunise a third of the continent’s population and bring Africa halfway towards the goal of vaccinating at least 60% of the people, the AU said.
An agreement with Johnson & Johnson was possible through $2bn financing provided by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which also serves as the Financial and Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, and Instalment Payment Facility Providers.
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