Africa Union secures 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – Ramaphosa

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The African Union has secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from manufacturers for member states to supplement the COVAX programme, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

African nations are grappling with a second wave of the novel coronavirus, infections rising to at least 3.1 million and 74 600 deaths over the course of the pandemic, according to a Reuters tally.

The vaccines will be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, through the Serum Institute of India, and Johnson &Johnson, said Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union.

He added that all 270 million doses would be made available this year, with at least 50 million available “for the crucial period of April to June 2021”.

On financing, Ramaphosa said arrangements had been made with the African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank) to support member states who want access to the vaccines.

Afreximbank would, upon receipt of firm orders from member states, provide advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to $2 billion to the manufacturers.

“There is also close collaboration between the AU team and the World Bank to ensure that member states are able to access about $5 billion either to buy more vaccines or pay for delivery of vaccines committed on their behalf by Afreximbank,” Ramaphosa said.

He added: “These endeavours aim to supplement the COVAX efforts, and to ensure that as many dosages of vaccine as possible become available throughout Africa as soon as possible.”

Ramaphosa said while the COVAX initiative, co-led by the World Health Organisation, was vital to Africa’s response, the African Union was concerned that COVAX volumes to be released between February and June may not extend beyond the needs of frontline health care workers.

The COVAX facility aims to make available 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.