The Chairman of the African Union and the President of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has revealed that the continent is left with few options to procure Covid-19 vaccines as the outbreak of the disease worsens across many parts of Africa.
This statement was made while speaking during a news interview on Bloomberg regarding the recent development.
His statement is a reaction to the criticism, over the country’s vaccine strategy from health leaders, labour unions and opposition parties.
The South African leader made it clear that despite the fact that four vaccine trials are underway in the country, South Africa has only arranged to purchase enough shots for 10% of its population of 60 million people through the Covax initiative, which is designed to ensure equitable access to the vaccines.
He revealed that the shots purchased are likely to begin arriving in the second quarter. Some African countries have their own plans for vaccine procurement, most do not.
What you should know
- With over 1.09 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and 29,175 deaths, South Africa is the worst-hit country on the African continent. This has made it imperative for the country to obtain vaccines for its citizens.
- It is important to note that African countries would’ve been in a better position to gain early access to AstraZeneca’s and other vaccines, if they had started talks directly with producers complemented with early efforts to secure access to the vaccines.
- However, Ramaphosa’s statement is in reaction to the initial statement that Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE have offered to supply Africa with 50 million Covid-19 vaccines for health workers between March and the end of this year.
- He also revealed that Moderna Inc. has no supplies for Africa, while AstraZeneca Plc has no shots for the continent in 2021 and has directed the African Union to negotiate with the Serum Institute of India Ltd, which is making the vaccine on behalf of AstraZeneca.
What they are saying
President Cyril Ramaphosa in his statement said:
- “We are working hard in South Africa and on the continent to protect our people against Covid-19. South Africa is posting record numbers of infections and deaths and neighbouring Zimbabwe is entering a strict 30-day lockdown. The South African economy likely contracted the most in nine decades last year, according to official estimates.”
In a recent statement, a Pfizer representative based in the U.K. said the company remained “firmly committed to equitable access for Covid-19 vaccines.”
The representative of Pfizer who declined to give further details, confirmed that the company is in talks with the African Union, he said:
- “We have allocated doses for supply to low- and lower-middle-income countries at a not-for-profit price and we are actively working with governments all around the world. Discussions are taking place with Johnson & Johnson, which is conducting a trial in South Africa and plans to make 300 million doses a year at a factory in the country owned by Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd., when the shot is approved.”