African Union 'secures 300m Covid vaccine doses'

South Africa health worker

South Africa health worker

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the AU chairman, Wednesday announced that from the provisional 270 million doses, at least 50 million will be available between April and June 2021. We have held steadfastly to the principle that no country should be left behind.

Although infection numbers and death rates are comparatively lower across most of Africa, cases are spiking again in some areas, especially here in South Africa where a new variant of COVID-19 is causing particular alarm and makes up most of the new cases.

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London and British Society for Immunology spokesperson, said Siren had collected a "really important" dataset of healthcare workers. So, the AU made its own plan.

In a recent interview, 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 India-manufactured vaccines will come from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

"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".

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Africa has scrambled on multiple fronts to obtain vaccine supplies.

According to the Africa CDC, some 1.5 billion doses are needed to ensure that 60 per cent of the continent is vaccinated from the viral virus.

The pan-African multilateral trade finance institution, Afreximbank, will, upon receipt of firm orders from member states, provide advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to USD2 billion (about Sh219 billion) to the manufacturers on behalf of member states.

Ramaphosa said while the COVAX initiative, co-led by the World Health Organisation, was vital to Africa's response, the African Union was concerned that COVAX volumes to be released between February and June may not extend beyond the needs of frontline health care workers.

"This means that the vast majority of the population will either need to have natural immunity or have been immunized for us to fully lift restrictions on our lives, unless we are prepared to see many more people being infected and dying from COVID-19", he said. The continent over the weekend surpassed three million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 1.2 million in South Africa.

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