The African Union has disclosed during a special AU meeting Wednesday that it has secured a provisional 270 million doses of C0VID-19 vaccine for distribution on the continent in a deal that will benefit countries unable to finance their own immunisation campaigns.
The current AU Chair and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa promises that all 270 million vaccine doses will be made available this year, with 50 million supplied between April and June.
“From the onset of this pandemic, our focus as a continent has been on collaboration and collective effort. We have held steadfastly to the principle that no country should be left behind,” he said.
Ramaphosa, who established the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) in August, gave details of the doses it had secured to the special meeting.
“The task force was set up to ensure that the African continent would be able to secure sufficient doses to achieve community immunity.
“As a result of our own efforts we have so far secured a commitment of a provisional amount of 270 million vaccines from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson,” he said.
The doses will complement the vaccines secured via Covax, the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort which has struck agreements to secure two billion doses.
Also, the region expects around 600 million doses from the global Covax effort, which aims to provide vaccines to lower-income countries, but officials are still waiting for details.
Mr Ramaphosa said officials are worried that the doses from the Covax effort released in the first half of 2021 will only be enough to inoculate health care workers. With a population of 1.3 billion people and each person requiring two vaccine jabs, Africa would need around 2.6 billion doses to vaccinate everyone eventually.
“These endeavours aim to supplement the Covax efforts, and to ensure that as many dosages of the vaccine as possible become available throughout Africa as soon as possible,” he explained.
There has been a global rush to buy vaccines, with wealthier countries buying up most of the supply.
Africa, on the other hand, still faces funding deficits. There are questions also about the continent’s readiness to receive the vaccines. Ultra-cold refrigeration is needed for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Countries are working on building their cold chains. However, this is marred by a shortage of funds.
So, the continent can only wait.
Source: BBC, AFP