African Union secures additional 400 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines

AU president Ramaphosa calls on rich nations to share vaccines with developing world

  John Nkengasong: “If you add 400 million doses to the 270 million doses, I think we are beginning to make very good progress.” Photograph:  Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

John Nkengasong: “If you add 400 million doses to the 270 million doses, I think we are beginning to make very good progress.” Photograph: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

 

The African Union has secured an additional 400 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for its 54 member states, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the newly acquired doses were on top of the 270 million already secured for the continent earlier this month from vaccine developers Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

“If you add 400 million doses to the 270 million doses, I think we are beginning to make very good progress,” he said in an online briefing.

The newly acquired vaccines will be produced using the AstraZeneca formula by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

The AU also expects to receive 600 million vaccine doses by the end of 2021 through the Covax initiative, a global effort co-led by the World Health Organisation that aims to ensure fair and equitable access for every country.

The intergovernmental body announced in mid-January that at least 50 million of the vaccine doses it had sourced would be available to administer between April and June, ahead of the critical winter period.

However, the AU needs at least 1.5 billion doses to inoculate 60 per cent of the continent’s 1.3 billion population, and reach herd immunity against Covid-19, according to the Africa CDC.

At the online World Economic Forum earlier on Tuesday AU president Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also South Africa’s leader, called on rich nations that are bulk-buying vaccines to share them with the developing world.

“We are concerned about vaccine nationalism,” Mr Ramaphosa told the annual international gathering for global co-operation in a virtual address, as some countries are acquiring “up to four times more [of the vaccines] than their population needs”.

Mr Nkengasong said the latest statistics showed that Africa had recorded more than 3.4 million cases of Covid-19, and 87,000 related deaths. The continent’s fatality rate from the virus currently stands at 2.5 per cent, above the global average of 2.2 per cent, he said.

About 90 per cent of people who contracted Covid-19 were under 60, he added, and 80 per cent of the infected were asymptomatic.

“Young people are a reservoir for the virus in Africa,” Mr Nkengasong said.

As for the rollout of mass vaccination programmes in Africa, Mr Nkengasong said that so far only Morocco, Egypt, Seychelles and Guinea were beginning to make progress.

To ensure the delivery of vaccines to people living in war-torn African countries, the Africa CDC said it would work with partners such as the Red Cross, a non-governmental organisation that works in conflict zones.