President Macron visits agency helping to expand Africa’s largest vaccine manufacturing in SA
AVAT to vaccinate 400m Africans by Sept 2022 at cost of $3bn
A new partnership between the French government and the African Union (AU) will deliver additional 10 million doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines over the next three months to all AU member states, the presidency of France said in a joint statement with the African Union.
The vaccines will be allocated and distributed by the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the COVAX global vaccine initiative.
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The AU leadership led by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, will determine the sharing formula of the vaccine doses to the AU member states.
President Emmanual Macron of France, speaking on the France-African Union partnership, said the solution to the pandemic will only come from strong cooperation between multilateral, regional and national actors.
“Based on our solid partnership with the African Union, I want us to build together on the expertise and the political legitimacy of African leaders. Thus, 10 million doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines will be donated by the French people to the African Union, who will decide on their allocation, in coordination with COVAX. This demonstrates my will, as President of France, to stand shoulder to shoulder with African people and face the pandemic together,” the French president said.
In April this year, France became the first country to share doses with COVAX, a global vaccine initiative managed by CEPI, Gavi, WHO, and UNICEF. Through its new partnership with AVAT, the French government will add to these efforts and advance its commitment of sharing at least 60 million doses before the end of 2021.
The AVAT initiative was set up as a pooled procurement mechanism for the African Union member states to be able to buy enough vaccines for at least 50 percent of their needs. The AVAT works closely with the COVAX initiative, which seeks to provide the other 50 percent through donations. AVAT is managed on behalf of the African Union member states by an alliance of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which also provides the funding for the acquisition of vaccines.
AVAT has already acquired enough vaccines for African countries to vaccinate at least 400 million people, or one-third of the African population by September next year, at a cost of $3 billion, supported by an innovative partnership with the World Bank.
President Macron of France has been a powerful advocate in support of Africa’s need to have equitable access to vaccines, and was the first G20 leader to welcome and acknowledge the efforts of the African Union member states to build institutions like AVAT, since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, which began in Wuhan Province, China, in December 2019.
The French president has also met several times with the African Union’s leadership, and has also travelled to South Africa where Proparco, a French development agency is helping to expand Africa’s largest vaccine manufacturing facility.
France will also contribute to the World Health Organisation (WHO) supported hub, which will enable mRNA vaccines technology transfer to the African continent.
The French government has also been a strong advocate of vaccine sharing in the fight against COVID-19 in order to accelerate global vaccination rates and ensure equitable access to safe and efficacious immunization against COVID-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and African Union COVID-19 champion, said the donation by France of 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the African continent is a clear and welcome demonstration of human solidarity and political cooperation at a time the world needs this most.
“A safer and healthier Africa is a prerequisite for a safer and healthier world. I commend President Macron and the government and people of France for this important contribution to our continent’s fight against illness and against the unfortunate and avoidable reality of unequal access to vaccines in many regions of the world, including Africa,” Ramaphosa said.
Earlier this August, Africa began the first monthly shipments of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines to several member states. The shipments will continue until a total of 6.4 million doses are shipped this August. There is a target of delivering almost 50 million vaccines before the end of December. By January next year, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25 million per month. In collaboration with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), UNICEF is providing logistical and delivery services to African states.
The French government’s additional 10 million vaccine doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer would boost vaccine acquisition for Africa, a continent whose economy is suffering critical divides in: health care, fiscal, gender, and jobs and labour divides due to Covid-19. Before the onset of the virus, Africa imported 70 percent to 80 percent of pharmaceuticals. By the end of 2020, there was a 1.4 percent drag in the continent’s GDP, with its smaller economies facing contraction of up to 7.8 percent. At the end of last year, the continent’s debt was in excess of $350 billion, the highest by any region in the world.