The African Union has secured an additional 270 million Covid vaccines doses for African countries, but it still may not be enough to meet demand for the region, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) announced Wednesday.
At least 50 million doses will be available from April to June 2021 from Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through the Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson, according to an AVATT press release.
African Union Chair President Cyril Ramaphosa said “From the onset of this pandemic, our focus as a continent has been on collaboration and collective effort. We have held steadfastly to the principle that no country should be left behind.
All 270 million vaccine doses will be made available this year with at least 50 million being available for the crucial period of April to June 2021.”
These vaccines have been secured alongside a vaccine program from COVAX- a World Health Organization and Gavi Vaccine Alliance initiative to bring more vaccines to Africa on a fair basis.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa praised the move during an online media briefing on Thursday.
“Covax can only cover 20% of the African population, so it is really wonderful to see the African Union’s efforts to secure a provisional 270 million doses by the end of 2021…” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
However, President Ramaphosa cautioned that while the initiative was ‘vital’ it may “not extend beyond the needs of frontline health care workers, and may thus not be enough to contain the ever-increasing toll of the pandemic in Africa.”
Africa is experiencing a second wave which is “higher than the peak experienced last July,” with an average daily new case count of more than 25,000 in the last 14 days,” Dr. Moeti added.
The African Export–Import Bank will support the strategy by providing advancements of up to $2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of member states, South Africa Presidency said in a statement on Wednesday.
The African Union and the World Bank are also working together to to allow member states access to $5 billion to purchase more vaccines.
AVATT was formed in August to ensure the continent could secure enough vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity.
The announcement is welcome news for Ramaphosa as South Africa extended coronavirus restrictions on Monday, citing a “massive increase” in Covid-19 cases driven by a variant discovered last year.
Meanwhile, countries have been on a vaccine shopping spree for months.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, an international vaccine watchdog that includes Amnesty International and Oxfam, said in December that rich countries had bought enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to immunize their populations three times over.