The African Union (AU), through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (Avatt), has secured 270m vaccine doses to supply African countries, with at least 50m doses available for April to June 2021. Engineering News reports that Avatt, a 10-member team drawn from across the continent, was established in August 2020 by AU chair Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that the continent could secure sufficient vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity.
The vaccines will be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through independent licensee, the Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson.
“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. With this in mind, we have not only campaigned vigorously for changes through all the available international forums, but we have taken the additional step to independently secure vaccines using our own limited resources as member States,” Ramaphosa said.
According to Engineering News, arrangements have been made with financial service company African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) to support member States that want to access these vaccines based on a ‘whole-of-Africa’ approach. Members States will secure orders with Afreximbank, which will provide advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2-billion to the manufacturers on behalf of member States.
Once vaccines are delivered, member States may pay using internal resources or access an instalment payment facility of up to five years offered by Afreximbank.
The report says Ramaphosa outlined the close collaboration between the AU team and the World Bank to ensure that member States are able to access about $5bn either to buy more vaccines or pay for delivery of vaccines committed on their behalf by Afreximbank.
The 270m vaccines will be allocated to countries based on a formula that considers their population size and the extent of their epidemics, according to the director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control, John Nkengasong. Business Day reports that Avatt’s initiative is intended to complement Covax, which has promised 600m doses to Africa by the end of 2021, enough to vaccinate approximately 20% of the continent’s population.
The report says Nkengasong did not provide details of the specific allocations for different countries, but said this information would be made publicly available within a matter of days. “We will use the same approach that was used through the African Medical Supplies Platform when we had a shortage of diagnostics. This we did totally transparently,” he said.
The platform is an online marketplace that enables African countries to procure key medical supplies.
The 270m shots, if administered two per person, would, however, only cover around 10% of Africa's roughly 1.3bn people. Nkengasong is quoted in Reuters Africa as saying: “We should not see vaccines as a magic bullet for now, it will take time for vaccines to be rolled out in a way that we have herd immunity.”
Africa’s second coronavirus wave is infecting twice as many people per day as the height of the first wave last year, and has not peaked, said Nkengasong.
Nkengasong urged countries to keep public health measures such as mask wearing and movement restrictions. However, nations should also start placing orders and approve the vaccines as a bloc or blocs, to accelerate getting doses out. “There is a fierce urgency of now,” he said.
The reports says the Africa CDC boss brushed aside concerns that lack of ultra-cold chain storage infrastructure would stop countries buying and using vaccines needing to be kept at extremely low temperatures – Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
Countries would store and dole out such vaccines in cities, where demand is high and freezers can be maintained, he said.
Full Engineering News report
Full Business Day report
Full Reuters Africa report