Harare – The African Union and World Bank will establish mechanisms to distribute Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines to 400 million people on the continent.
The agreement followed a virtual meeting this week between World Bank president Mr David Malpass and his senior management team of Dr Axel van Trotsenburg and Dr Makhtar Diop, and the AU’s COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), to find ways of accelerating vaccine deployment.
In March, AVATT secured 400 million doses of the J&J single-dose vaccine with support from Afreximbank. Through AVATT, AU members get vaccines through a pooled procurement mechanism.
This week AVATT and the World Bank agreed to fast-track all administrative procedures to ensure vaccines reach populations expeditiously.
“In providing a US$2 billion guarantee on behalf of the AU member states, we were able to help put Africa in a strong negotiating position with producers as we negotiated vaccine procurement. It was obvious to us at AVATT that no deal will have been possible without a strong financial backing,” Afreximbank president Professor Benedict Oramah said.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and a member of AVATT, said they were determined to achieve their target of vaccinating at least 60 percent of Africa’s population.
And Mr Strive Masiyiwa, the AVATT co-ordinator, weighed in: “With over 41 countries at different stages of finalising their orders for purchasing the vaccine and with vaccination momentum growing, it is essential that countries feel they can get sufficient doses quickly and in an affordable way.
“The World Bank’s decision to partner with AVATT on the heels of the US announcement about dose sharing means countries can be assured they can both access and finance the vaccines they need.”
Dr Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said the pandemic had exposed pre-existing vulnerabilities in health systems.
She added that the African Continental Free Trade Area provided a platform to build resilient and inclusive health systems, with local production of vaccines, medicines and medical equipment.