- Nigeria, 54 others assured they can access, finance vaccines they need
The President of the World Bank, David Malpass, and his senior management team comprising Axel van Trotsenburg and Makhtar Diop met with the African Union’s Covid-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) to discuss modalities for a partnership that will accelerate deployment of 400 million dozes of Johnso & Johnson (J&J) vaccine to Africa.
With the global lender’s decision to partner AVATT, Nigeria and 54 other African countries, who are members of the African Union, can be assured they can both access and finance the vaccines they need.
In a historic Covid-19 vaccine procurement agreement signed on 28 March, the AVATT had previously successfully secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot Covid-19 vaccine, with the support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank). Afreximbank had provided a US$2 billion guarantee on behalf of the African Union (AU) member states, to help put Africa in a strong negotiating position with vaccine producers. No deal would have been possible for AVATT without a strong financial backing, Benedict Oramah, the bank’s president had said.
John Nkengasong, Director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and member of the AVATT, said, the J&J doses are a critical step towards the continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of Africans.
“Reaching this target is a prerequisite to saving African lives and livelihoods, safely reopening our economies and resuming our economic development agenda,” the Africa CDC director said.
With over 41 African countries at different stages of finalising their orders for purchasing the vaccine, and with vaccination momentum growing, experts believe it is essential that countries feel they can get sufficient doses quickly and in an affordable way.
According to Strive Masiyiwa, African Union Special Envoy and coordinator of the AVATT, the World Bank’s decision to partner with AVATT on the heels of the US announcement about dose sharing means African countries, especially, can be assured they can both access and finance the vaccines they need.”
Under the AVATT structure, AU member states are allocated vaccines according to the size of their populations for purchase through a pooled procurement mechanism. These vaccines complement the vaccines offered through the COVAX Facility, which has set out to deliver vaccines for up to 30 per cent of participating countries’ populations, to enable the AU Member States to reach the continental target.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Chair of the African Union, established the AVATT on 6 November 2020, mandating it to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for AU Member States and provide the required financing.
Once the vaccines arrive in the member states, additional efforts will be required to support their deployment. This includes in-country distribution (logistics and storage in line with the cold-chain requirements), securing the required systems, capacities and capabilities for vaccination. It also includes targeted research and campaigns to identify and address vaccine hesitancy through clear and targeted risk communication and community engagement. These activities will require a significant lift by countries; the additional support is going to be critical.
Looking ahead, Vera Songwe, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic for Africa (ECA) recalled that the pandemic served to expose vulnerabilities already existing in Africa’s health systems which were well document in the ECA’s Health and Economic Growth in Africa (HEGA) report in 2019. She noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now provides the platform for building a resilient and inclusive health system, with local production of vaccines, medicines and medical equipment on the continent.
Frontpage September 25, 2017