The African Union (AU) special envoy for covid-19 said on Thursday that only 10% of the 320 million vaccines that Covax had announced would arrive in the region in August arrived in Africa.
Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean millionaire and philanthropist who has been committed to giving the African population access to covid-19 vaccines, spoke at the weekly, online meeting of the African Union Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC ), during which a “historic” target in pandemic vaccination on the continent was announced.
As of today, the 400 million doses of vaccines that AU member states have pledged to purchase to immunize part of the African population will begin to be distributed in the region. covid-19, from which 92 poor countries benefit, the rest.
Strive Masiyiwa did not question the reasons that led to this delay in the arrival of vaccines via covax, but he was straightforward: “I am a businessman, I focus on results. By now 320 million doses should have arrived and they haven’t”.
The goal of 320 million doses delivered in August was defined by the Covax mechanism itself, according to Stive Masiyiwa.
The philanthropist welcomed the work carried out by the African Union (AU), which allowed, from today, to start sending vaccines purchased by this organization to its member states.
According to Strive Masiyiwa, the first country to receive these vaccines will be Togo and their distribution on the continent will take place by September 2022. In August alone, 6.4 million doses will be shipped, with UNICEF ensuring the logistical work of administering the vaccines .
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was chosen because it is a single dose, easier and cheaper to administer, but also because it has a long shelf life and favorable storage conditions.
Another factor that influenced the choice of this vaccine was the fact that it was partially manufactured on the African continent.
Last March 28, AU member states signed an agreement (African Vaccine Acquisition Trust – AVAT) for the purchase of 220 million doses of covid-19 vaccine and the possibility of ordering another 180 million doses.
For the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, the African country most affected by covid-19, “this is an important step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people”.
“By working together and pooling resources, African countries have managed to secure millions of doses of vaccines produced right here in Africa. This will give a boost to the fight against covid-19 across the continent and will lay the foundations for Africa’s social and economic recovery,” he said.
A vaccine procurement of this magnitude is a first on the African continent and is also the first time that AU Member States collectively procure vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population.
The 400 million doses of vaccine are enough to immunize a third of the African population and bring Africa halfway towards its continental goal of vaccinating at least 60% of the population.
International donors have pledged to provide the remaining half of the required doses through the covax initiative.
The vaccine doses that are now beginning to be distributed are produced at the Aspen Pharmacare facility in Gqeberha, South Africa.
For Africa CDC director John Nkengasong, the deliveries that begin now will help the continent reach “the levels of vaccination necessary to protect African lives and livelihoods”.
Nkengasong also took advantage of a question raised by a journalist during the press conference to clarify that the vaccine’s benefits far outweigh the risks and that its safety is constantly monitored.
The agreement with Johnson & Johnson was made possible through a $2 billion facility provided by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), whose president, Benedict Oramah, believes it will help “contain the spread of the virus and protect lives and livelihoods”.
For her part, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Vera Songwe, called the moment “a proud moment for the continent”.
“The vaccines, partially manufactured in South Africa, are true proof that local production and joint procurement, as envisaged in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), are critical to achieving a more sustainable economic recovery. post-covid across the continent,” he said.
This procurement and distribution of vaccines is supported by an innovative partnership between the World Bank and the AU, through which the World Bank supports the AVATT initiative with resources that enable countries to purchase and distribute vaccines to up to 400 million people across Africa .
World Bank Executive Director of Operations Axel van Trotsenburg joined in the congratulations, saying “today marks an important milestone in the AU’s relentless efforts to bring covid-19 vaccines to Africa.”