AFRICA – African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) has started monthly shipments of vaccines acquired by the African Union to African Union member states, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and African Union (AU) COVID-19 Champion has announced.
The first monthly shipments will arrive in several Member States as from yesterday, and shipments will continue for a total of 6.4m doses shipped in August. Monthly shipments will continue and be continually ramped up, with a target of delivering almost 50m vaccines before the end of December.
It is expected that by January, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25m per month. In collaboration with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), UNICEF is providing logistical and delivery services to the Member States.
“This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people. 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,” President Ramaphosa said.
This vaccine acquisition is a unique milestone for the African continent. 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.
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.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was selected for this first pooled procurement for three reasons. J&J is a single shot vaccine making it easier and cheaper to administer.
Similarly, the vaccine has a long shelf-life and favorable storage conditions and it is partly manufactured on the African continent, with fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa, making it readily available.
It is significant that these vaccine doses are being produced on the African continent at the Aspen Pharmacare facility in Gqeberha in South Africa.
This is part of the concerted effort by African countries to rally the world to support the TRIPS waiver for technology transfer and active pharmaceutical ingredients to develop our own manufacturing capabilities.
The agreement with Johnson & Johnson was made possible through a US$2 billion facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), who are also the Financial and Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, Instalment Payment facility providers and Payment Agents.
“This is a proud moment for the continent; the vaccines, partly manufactured in South Africa are a true testament that local production and pooled procurement as envisioned in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are key to the attainment of a more sustainable post-Covid economic recovery across the continent,” said Dr Vera Songwe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
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.
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