The African Union (AU) has secured about 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – the largest of such agreements in the continent.
A senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nicaise Ndembi, told The Associated Press that the current AU chair and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is expected to announce the news today.
According to Ndembi, the 300 million doses secured are independent of the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries.
Why this matters
The news comes on the heels of increased coronavirus infections in Africa. In some parts of Africa, a rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus now makes up most of the new cases resulting in the continent. Over the weekend, the continent surpassed 3 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
What they are saying
Ndembi, referring to questions on who will be providing the vaccines and at what cost, said:
- “We have reached the final stage of our deals. We plan to have these by the end of the first quarter of 2021. We’re expecting 600 million doses from the COVAX facility. But African officials are still waiting on the details, so we’re happy we have alternative solutions.”
Ndembi said African officials have approached at least 10 vaccine manufacturers and developers as the continent seeks to vaccinate 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people – about 780 million people.
The Africa CDC has said some 1.5 billion doses are needed for that, assuming two doses per person and estimates the effort will cost some $10 billion.
Ndembi said he’s very optimistic that can be achieved within two years. The Africa CDC has warned that taking much longer than that risks having the virus become endemic in parts of the African continent.
South African and AU president, Cyril Ramaphosa, stated that:
“The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team recently created under the AU has done tremendous work to secure vaccine doses through intensive engagement with manufacturers. Given the massive global demand for vaccines and the vastly greater purchasing power of wealthier countries, we are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible.”