The African Union on Wednesday announced that it has purchased 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the continent from Pfizer and AstraZeneca through the Serum Institute of India, and from Johnson & Johnson.
At least 50 million of the doses are to be available by April to June and the rest are to be delivered before the end of the year, said the African Union chairman, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“From the onset of this crisis, our focus as a continent has been on collaboration and collective effort. We have held steadfastly to the principle that no country should be left behind,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
The purchase agreements were negotiated by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team established by the African Union, the statement said.
The news comes as COVID-19 infections are spiking again in parts of Africa.
The continent has surpassed 3 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 1.2 million in South Africa, where a rapidly spreading variant of COVID-19 makes up most of its new cases.
The acquisition of 270 million doses would complement the 600 million doses expected to be made available to Africa by the Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) platform.
The new purchases and the COVAX doses would provide Africa with about half of the doses that it requires, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.
The continent seeks to vaccinate about 780 million people, representing about 60 percent of its population of 1.3 billion.
The Africa CDC has said that 1.5 billion doses are needed for that, assuming two doses per person, at an estimated cost of about US$10 billion.
Financing for individual countries wanting to buy the vaccines is to be available through the African Export-Import Bank, the African Union statement said.
It is hoped that international donors would ensure that more vaccines are provided through COVAX, to reduce any new debt burden on African states, the statement said.
“Given the virulent nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that a threat to one nation and continent is a threat to all,” the statement said. “To successfully eradicate the global threat of the disease, it is critical that a majority of citizens of all nations get urgent and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible,” it added.
“There is a long road ahead, but as Africa, we are now seeing progress in our shared effort to defeat this disease,” Ramaphosa said.
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