AFRICAN UNION SECURES 300 MILLION COVID-19 VACCINES, TARGETS 780 MILLION PEOPLE
The African Union (AU) has secured about 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the largest of such agreements in the continent.
A senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nicaise Ndembi, while speaking with news men, said that the AU chairman and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, is expected to announce the news on Wednesday, January 13.
The development comes on the heels of rising cases of coronavirus infections in Africa, especially South Africa as the world experiences a second wave.
According to Ndembi, the 300 million doses are being secured independently of the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries.
Answering a question on who will be providing the vaccines and at what cost, Ndembi said, "We have reached the final stage of our deals. We plan to have these by the end of the first quarter of 2021. We’re expecting 600 million doses from the COVAX facility. But African officials are still waiting on the details, so we’re happy we have alternative solutions.”
Ndembi said African officials have approached at least 10 vaccine manufacturers and developers as the continent seeks to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population of 1.3 billion people which is about about 780 million people.
The Africa CDC earlier stated that about 1.5 billion doses are needed for that, assuming two doses per person and estimates the effort will cost some $10 billion.
Ndembi said he is very optimistic that it can be achieved within two years. The Africa CDC has warned that taking much longer than that risks having the virus become endemic in parts of the African continent.
Speaking on Monday, Ramaphosa announced that the country had secured 20 million vaccine doses “to be delivered mainly in the first half of the year”. He gave no further details but said “we will make further announcements as we conclude our negotiations with vaccine manufacturers."
However, report says only 1.5 million vaccines meant for health workers have been confirmed.
"The South African government has also been engaging directly with several vaccine manufacturers for over six months,” he said. “Given the massive global demand for vaccines and the vastly greater purchasing power of wealthier countries, we are exploring all avenues to get as many vaccine doses as soon as possible,” Ramaphosa added.
As part of his efforts to check the spread of the infection, President Ramaphosa on Monday extended coronavirus restrictions in the country.
The current measures were due to expire on January 15 and include closing beaches and public parks, and banning the sale of alcohol.
In addition to extending the existing measures, Ramaphosa announced that 20 land borders will be closed until February 15. The closures will have several exceptions such as those traveling for medical emergencies, he said.
As at Tuesday, January 12, the country has reported at least 1,246,643 Covid-19 cases, including 33,579 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.