American drug-maker Johnson & Johnson will supply the African Union with 400 million doses of its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine beginning in the third quarter, the multinational corporation said on March 29.
In a procurement agreement signed earlier on March 28, a related statement indicates, all African Union member states, through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) set up in November 2020, will have access to 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine.
The joint statement by AU, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), and the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) notes that there is also the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
The AMSP is a non-profit initiative launched by the AU as an immediate, integrated and practical response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online platform was developed under the leadership of the African Union special envoy, Mr Strive Masiyiwa.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, said: “The Africa CDC recommended to the African Union that a minimum of 750 million Africans (60 percent) must be immunised if we are to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“This transaction enables Africa to meet almost 50 percent of that target. The key to this particular vaccine is that it is a single-shot vaccine which makes it easier to roll out quickly and effectively, thus saving lives.”
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and Chairman of AVATT, welcomed the historic agreement, which he initiated directly with the company, during his tenure as AU Chairperson.
“This agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans. It is also a powerful demonstration of African unity and of what we can achieve through partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that put people first,” President Ramaphosa said.
AVATT is a 10-member team drawn from across the continent. It was established in August 2020 to ensure that the continent would be able to secure sufficient COVID-19 vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity.
Over a period of 18 months, it is noted, the vaccines will be made available to African countries through AMSP, a non-profit initiative launched by the AU as an immediate, integrated and practical response to the pandemic.
Most supplies will be produced at the giant pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in South Africa operated by Aspen Pharma.
The direct acquisition of vaccines by the African countries through the AVATT initiative is part of the continental objective to achieve a minimum of 60 percent immunisation of the African population, in order to eliminate COVID-19.
Rwanda – which plans to vaccinate at least 7.8 million people representing 60 percent of the population by June next year – requires about US$120 million to complete its COVID-19 vaccination plot, with short-term costs standing at US$47 million, according to the Ministry of Finance.
The international donor community pledged to provide 27 percent through the COVAX Initiative while Africa must find the rest.
Mr Benedict Oramah, president of Afreximbank, said: “In the midst of a very tight COVID-19 vaccine market, we are highly honoured to have been given the opportunity by the African Union to facilitate this impactful transaction under the auspices of the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
“Acting as Financial and Transaction Advisors, Guarantors, Instalment Payment Facility Arrangers and Payment Agents, we look forward to beginning the deployment of the US$2 billion Vaccine Procurement facility approved by the bank’s board of directors towards assisting the continent to begin to rid itself of the pandemic and rebuild its economy.”
Mr Oramah said the financing will support Intra-African Trade and “we have already commenced engagement with our financial partners” to secure the additional funding that would support procurement if Africa decides to procure the additional 180 million doses.
Prior to the conclusion of the agreement, AU countries were asked to make pre-orders for the vaccines “and many countries showed strong preference for this particular vaccine.”
It is noted that countries will be able to purchase the vaccines either using cash, or a facility from Afreximbank.
Most countries have already completed their pre-orders, reads the statement. – New Times