AU signs agreement for 400m doses of single-shot COVID-19 vaccines

FILE PHOTO: Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

All African Union (AU) member states, through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), will have access to 220 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) single-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) said this in a statement it issued in Cairo, Egypt on Monday.

According to it, a COVID-19 vaccine procurement agreement was signed on Sunday by AVAT, an organisation set up by the AU and J&J.

It also said that based on the agreement, there was a potential to order an additional 180 million doses.

”The vaccines will be made available to African countries through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), over a period of 18 months,” the bank said.

It also said that most of the supplies would be produced at the giant pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in South Africa operated by Aspen Pharma.

According to the statement, the transaction was made possible through the two billion dollars facility approved by Afreximbank, which also acted as financial and transaction advisers, guarantors, instalment payment advisers and payment agents.

“The successful conclusion of the agreement was made possible by the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), who supported the negotiation process with Johnson and Johnson.

“UNICEF is also acting as procurement and logistics agent, while the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) was supported in terms of advice on various aspects by the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

It said that prior to the conclusion of the agreement with J&J, African member states were asked to make pre-orders for the vaccines and many countries showed strong preference for it.

It also said that countries would be able to purchase the vaccines either using cash, or a facility from Afreximbank, adding that most countries had already completed their pre-orders.

The bank said that the direct acquisition of vaccines by African countries through the AVATT initiative was part of the continental objective to achieve a minimum of 60 per cent immunisation of the African population, in order to eliminate COVID-19.

It said that the target was in line with targets set in other regions such as Europe and the United States.

It also said that the international donor community had pledged to provide 27 per cent through the COVAX Initiative which was coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, whilst Africa must find the rest.

It however said that AVATT and COVAX were working very closely together.

The statement said Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, and former Chairman of the AU welcomed the agreement, which he personally initiated directly with the company, during his tenure as chair of the AU.

“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 puts people first.”

Prof. Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, said the bank was proud to be associated with the historic and collective effort.

“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 AVATT.

“Acting as financial and transaction advisors, guarantors, instalment payment facility arrangers and payment agents, we look forward to beginning the deployment of the two billion dollars vaccine procurement facility.

“It was approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors towards assisting the continent to begin to rid itself of the pandemic and rebuild its economy.

“This 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.”

Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said his organisation recommended to the AU that a minimum of 750 million Africans or 60 per cent must be immunised if it was to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“This transaction enables Africa to meet almost 50 per cent of that target and 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.” (NAN)


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