SA’s AstraZeneca vaccine sold to AU distributed across the continent

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The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says the AstraZeneca vaccines that South Africa sold to the African Union have now been distributed to other countries across the continent.

Health officials in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, say the vaccine is the same quality as other vaccines being distributed under the WHO-supported COVAX facility.

They insist that South Africa’s decision to discontinue AstraZeneca’s usage was not based on safety concerns, but rather the impact of the vaccine on new coronavirus variants.

In February, South Africa suspended the rollout of the vaccine after it was found it less effective against a variant of the virus found in the country.

The African Union has confirmed that it bought the one million doses of the vaccine:

So far, nine countries have received consignments, totalling over 700 000 doses.

“The vaccines have been bought as part of the 25 million US dollar donation from telecom giant MTN group, to support the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team’s  efforts. The batch had an expiry date of 13th April and the  Africa CDC says countries will be able to use them up before then,” says Africa CDC Director, Dr John Nkengasong.

Getting more supplies of the Astrazeneca vaccine to the continent is a challenge. Reports indicate that India has asked its Serum Institute to ensure it satisfies domestic demand before undertaking exports. The  European Union has also demanded that the company meets the bloc’s needs first.

Dr Nkengasong is warning a vaccine war will impact the continent’s ability to continue with vaccinations.

“I just have that sense  of helplessness but remaining hopeful. remaining hopeful that the power of humanity will prevail . We know and understand that this is a collective effort . No part of the world, no country will be safe except  every country is safe with respect to this virus. The battle has to be a collective battle and I just have the sense that it cannot be this , we as humanity should rise above this and really implore the power of our own humanity . the strength of our own individual commitment to moral consciousness otherwise we will be in this battle for a long time.”

Africa is eyeing  more supplies from the company  under the WH- supported COVAX scheme. It also has a plan to acquire more 270 million doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India.

So far, 28 countries have received 16 million doses of vaccines, mostly Astrazeneca, from the WHO-supported COVAX facility.