The African Union announced this week it has purchased 270 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for the continent. At least 50 million doses will be available between April and June 2021, the body said.
“As a result of our 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,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who also leads the African Union informed.
The acquisition was conducted by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), a 10-member entity set up in August last year by the AU President to handle the purchase procedure and make sure the continent has enough doses to reach herd immunity.
In its statement, AU said measures have been set up with Afreximbank to support countries that would like to have the vaccines on a pan-African basis. This means the bank will, upon receipt of firm orders from member states, provide advance purchase commitment guarantees of up to $2 billion to manufacturers on behalf of member states.
Upon delivery of the vaccines, Member States may pay using their resources or access a staggering payment facility of up to five years offered by Afreximbank.
Mr. Ramaphosa also revealed a close collaboration between AVATT and the World Bank to ensure that countries benefit from $5 billion, either to buy more doses or to pay for the delivery of vaccines committed on their behalf by Afreximbank.
This AU initiative comes in addition to the vaccine offer put in place as part of the WHO-led Covax scheme.
According to AU, the 600 million doses to be made available under the Covax program will only cover about 300 million people, about 20% of the African population. Scientists from the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Africa) believe that African countries need to inoculate at least 60% of their population to significantly slow the spread of the disease.
The AVATT continues to negotiate with other vaccine suppliers to acquire additional doses, the AU communiqué stressed.
To date, Africa has already exceeded 3 million cases of Covid-19 with more than 75,000 deaths, and new cases are being recorded. South Africa is the hardest-hit country with over 1.2 million cases (more than 30% of total cases on the continent) and 33,579 deaths.