ADDIS ABABA – African Union agreed on Sunday to procure as many as 400 million Covid-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson through the end of next year, boosting Africa’s effort to inoculate more than half of its population.
“The vaccines will be made available to African countries through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), over a period of 18 months,” said the two in a joint statement on Monday.
According to the agreement, a further 180 million doses could then be delivered the following year.
The pact follows agreements with AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc., and the makers of Russia’s Sputnik v vaccine.
Sunday’s agreement was signed between the vaccine manufacturer and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) – a trust set up in November 2020 under the then AU chairman and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Most of the supplies will be produced at the giant pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in South Africa operated by Aspen Pharma.
Reports say the delivery commitment to the AU will depend on regulatory backing from member nations.
The dose’s requirement for just a single shot is seen as beneficial for Africa, where distribution is likely to present a major challenge.
The procurement access was made possible through the $2bln facility approved by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
Prior to the conclusion of the Agreement with Johnson & Johnson, African Member States were asked to make pre-orders for the vaccines and many countries showed a strong preference for this particular vaccine.
“The countries will be able to purchase the vaccines either using cash, or a facility from Afreximbank,” the statement said. “Most countries have already completed their pre-orders”.
The direct acquisition of vaccines by the African countries through the AVAT initiative is part of the continental objective to achieve a minimum of 60% immunization of the African population, in order to eliminate COVID-19.
This target is in line with targets set in other regions such as Europe and the United States.
The international donor community has pledged to provide 27% through the COVAX Initiative – which is coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, whilst Africa must find the rest.