The African Union has secured close to 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the largest such agreement yet for Africa
NAIROBI, Kenya — The African Union has secured close to 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the largest such agreement yet for Africa, a continental official said Tuesday.
Nicaise Ndembi, senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Associated Press in an interview that the current AU chair, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, is expected to announce the news on Wednesday.
“We plan to have these by the end of the first quarter” of 2021, Ndembi said of the nearly 300 million doses, which will be allocated on the continental platform the AU set up last year to make it easier for Africa’s 54 countries to pool their purchasing power and buy pandemic supplies in bulk.
Ndembi said African officials have approached at least 10 vaccine manufacturers and developers as the continent seeks to vaccinate 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people.
In an address to South Africans on Monday night, Ramaphosa announced the country had secured 20 million vaccine doses “to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year.” He gave no further details but said “we will make further announcements as we conclude our negotiations with vaccine manufacturers.”
Africa has scrambled on multiple fronts to obtain vaccine supplies. Ramaphosa said the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team recently created under the AU “has done tremendous work to secure vaccine doses” through what he called intensive engagement with manufacturers.
“The South African government has also been engaging directly with several vaccine manufacturers for over six months,” he said.
“Given the massive global demand for vaccines and the vastly greater purchasing power of wealthier countries, we are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible,” Ramaphosa said.
The Africa CDC official, Ndembi, called the securing of nearly 300 million doses a good step as other arrangements remain in progress.
“We’re expecting 600 million doses from the COVAX facility,” he said, but African officials are still waiting on the details, so “we’re happy we have alternative solutions.”
While richer countries have been urged to donate any excess COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries in need, Ndembi said that “the Africa CDC not going to table to beg for vaccines. We’re going to the table to buy….All these doses I mentioned have been procured and being paid for.”
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