AU COVID-19 vaccine supply facility kicks off


Harare (New Ziana) – In a huge boost to Africa’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccination drive, the African Union (AU) on Thursday began monthly shipments of Johnson and Johnson vaccines to member states.

The monthly shipments are a culmination of a March 28, agreement for the purchase of 220 million doses of the J& J single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million jabs.

The 400million J&J jabs will be sufficient to immunise a third of the African population, bringing Africa halfway towards its continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of its population.

The historic shipments, being made under the auspices of the AU / African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), mark the first time Africa has undertaken a pooled procurement of such magnitude involving all Member States.

The vaccines are being partly manufactured on the continent, with fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa.
South African President and AU COVID-19 champion, Cyril Ramaphosa said a total of 6.4 million doses would be shipped to various member states this month.

The target is to deliver almost 50million vaccine doses before the end of December and to release in excess of 25 million jabs per month by January next year.

“This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people. By working together and by pooling resources, African countries have been able to secure millions of vaccine doses produced right here in Africa. 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,” he said.

Zimbabwean businessman and AU special envoy, Strive Masiyiwa described the shipments as an unprecedented milestone.

Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr John Nkengasong said the shipments would help Africa avert deadlier waves of the pandemic.

“During the last months, we have seen the vaccination gap between Africa and other parts of the world widen, and a devastating third wave hit our continent. The deliveries starting now will help us get to the vaccination levels necessary to protect African lives and livelihoods,” he said.

The J&J agreement was made possible through a USD 2 billion facility provided by African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

Afreximbank president Benedict Oramah said the economic impact of the low vaccination rates on the continent was huge.

“The very low access to vaccines has exposed Africa to a devastating third and fourth wave of COVID-19. Death rates are rising and economies are becoming increasingly vulnerable,” he said.

“We are encouraged by the successful commencement of this vaccine roll-out, which will help contain the spread of the virus and protect lives and livelihood.”
New Ziana

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