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AU begins rollout of 400m COVID-19 vaccine doses to member states

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Angela Onwuzoo

Africa Union has announced the commencement of monthly shipments of the 400m doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine acquired by it through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust to its member states beginning from Thursday (today).

The vaccine supplies, according to the AU, will help Africa reach its target of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of the population, to contain the spread of COVID-19.

AVAT, an initiative by the AU member states to pool their purchasing power, has already signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The agreement entails that 55 member states of the AU will take delivery of the vaccines from today.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to AU, was selected for this first pooled procurement for some reasons: first of all, as a single-shot vaccine, it is easier and cheaper to administer; second, the vaccine has a long shelf-life and favourable storage conditions.

In a statement released on Thursday by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the AU said the first monthly shipments will arrive in several member states, adding that shipments will continue in August for a total of 6.4m doses.

It noted that monthly shipments will continue and be continually ramped up, with a target of delivering almost 50m vaccines before the end of December.

According to the AU, by January, the number of vaccines being released will be more than 25m per month. 

“This vaccine acquisition is a unique milestone for the African continent. It is the first time Africa has undertaken a procurement of this magnitude involving all member states. 

“It also marks the first time that the AU member states have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population – 400m vaccines are sufficient to immunise a third of the African people and bring Africa halfway towards its continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of the population.

“International donors have committed to deliver the remaining half of the doses required through the COVAX initiative,” AU said.

Former AU Chairperson and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said,” 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.”

Also speaking, African Union Special Envoy, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa,

said: “Delivering our first doses to AU member states is an unprecedented milestone.

“We are deploying relentless efforts to help each member state to reach its goal of immunising 60 per cent of Africans, as recommended by the Africa CDC.

“Johnson & Johnson AVAT-purchased single-shot vaccines will enable us to considerably improve our vaccination level across the continent.”

Director of Africa CDC, Dr. John Nkengasong, also said, “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.”

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