France is partnering with the African Union to deliver 10 million doses of Astra Zeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines over the next three months, the bloc said in a statement on Monday.
The vaccines will be allotted and shared by the initiative known as the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the COVAX global vaccine initiative.
AVAT was set up as a mechanism for the African Union Member States to buy enough vaccines for at least 50% of their needs through pooled procurement. AVAT works closely with COVAX, an initiative that seeks to provide the other 50% through donations.
AVAT is managed on behalf of the African Union Member States by an alliance of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), as well as the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which also provides the funding for the acquisition of vaccines.
AVAT has already acquired enough vaccines for one-third of Africa’s population to be immunized by September next year. The vaccines were acquired at a cost of $3 billion, supported by an innovative partnership with the World Bank.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has been a strong advocate in favour of Africans having equitable access to vaccines since the onset of the pandemic, and he was the first to endorse and thank the efforts of African states to develop AVAT. His meetings with the African Union’s leadership have been extensive, as he has also travelled to South Africa where Proparco is working to expand Africa’s largest vaccine manufacturing facility.
The French government will also contribute to a WHO-supported network that will transfer mRNA vaccine technology to Africa.
France has also been a strong advocate of vaccine sharing in the fight against COVID-19 in order to accelerate global vaccination rates and ensure equitable access to safe and efficacious immunization against COVID-19. In April of this year, France became the first country to share doses with COVAX, a global vaccine initiative managed by CEPI, Gavi, WHO, and UNICEF.
Through its new partnership with AVAT, the French government will add to these efforts and advance its commitment to sharing at least 60 million doses before the end of 2021.
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and African Union COVID-19 Champion, welcomed the donation, saying it “is a clear and welcome demonstration of human solidarity and political cooperation at a time the world needs this most.”
He added, “A safer and healthier Africa is a prerequisite for a safer and healthier world. I commend President Macron and the government and people of France for this important contribution to our continent’s fight against illness and against the unfortunate and avoidable reality of unequal access to vaccines in many regions of the world, including Africa.”
His Excellency Emmanual Macron, President of the French Republic, said: “The solution to the pandemic will only come from strong cooperation, between multilateral, regional and national actors. Based on our solid partnership with the African Union, I want us to build together on the expertise and the political legitimacy of African leaders. Thus 10 million doses of Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines will be donated by the French people to the African Union, who will decide on their allocation, in coordination with COVAX. This demonstrates my will, as President of France, to stand shoulder to shoulder with African people and face the pandemic together.”
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