President Cyril Ramaphosa, of the Republic of South Africa and African Union (AU) COVID-19 Champion, has announced the start of monthly shipments of vaccines acquired by the AU / African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) to the AU Member States today.
An initiative by the AU Member States to pool their purchasing power, the AVAT, on 28 March 2021, had signed the historic agreement for the purchase of 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
Ramaphosa said: “This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people.
“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.”
On 5 August, the first monthly shipments will arrive in several Member States, and shipments will continue for a total of 6.4 million doses shipped in August.
Monthly shipments will continue and be continually ramped up, with a target of delivering almost 50 million vaccines before the end of December.
By January, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25 million per month. In collaboration with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), UNICEF is providing logistical and delivery services to the Member States.
This vaccine acquisition is a unique milestone for the African continent as it is the first time Africa has undertaken a procurement of this magnitude involving all Member States.
It also marks the first time that the AU Member States have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said: “During the last months, we have seen the vaccination gap between Africa and other parts of the world widen, and a devastating third wave hit our continent.
“The deliveries starting now will help us get to the vaccination levels necessary to protect African lives and livelihoods.”
The agreement with Johnson & Johnson was made possible through a $2bn facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), who are also the Financial and Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, Instalment Payment facility providers and Payment Agents.
Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Afreximbank, said: “The very low access to vaccines has exposed Africa to a devastating third and fourth waves of COVID-19.
“Death rates are rising and economies are becoming increasingly vulnerable. We are encouraged by the successful commencement of this vaccine roll-out, which will help contain the spread of the virus and protect lives and livelihood.
“Afreximbank is pleased to have contributed in the historic procurement of vaccines by AVAT. We look forward to better days ahead for our people through this effort.”
This vaccine acquisition and deployment is supported by an innovative partnership between the World Bank and the AU, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to expedite access to vaccines throughout the continent.
Through this partnership, the World Bank is supporting the AVATT initiative with resources to allow countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million people across Africa.
Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director of Operations, said: “Today marks an important milestone in the AU’s tireless efforts in bringing COVID-19 vaccines to Africa.
“The World Bank is very pleased to be part of the AU campaign to get the African continent vaccinated, including by helping finance the purchases of the needed doses and supporting the administration of the shots.”