Africa Gets 270 million Covid19 Vaccine Doses

The African Union (AU) has obtained a provisional 270 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for distribution across the continent.

All the doses will be used this year, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the new AU chief promises.

This is now guaranteed on top of 600 million doses, but it is still not enough to vaccinate the entire country.

There are concerns that poorer nations globally will wait much longer to be inoculated than richer nations.

While infection numbers and death rates in most of Africa are comparatively lower, cases in some areas are spiking again.

In South Africa, a new form of Covid-19 triggers specific concern and makes up most of the new cases.

President Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that “As a result of our own efforts we have so far secured a commitment of a provisional amount of 270 million vaccines from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson,”

At least 50 million of the doses will be available “for the crucial period of April to June 2021,” he said.

Moreover, the region expects about 600 million doses from the global Covax initiative aimed at supplying lower-income countries with vaccines.

Nicaise Ndembi, senior science advisor for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that officials are still waiting for information and are now “happy we have alternative solutions,” according to AP news agency.

Mr Ramaphosa said officials are worried that the doses released in the first half of 2021 from the Covax effort would only be adequate to inoculate health care staff. Africa will require about 1.6 million doses to eventually vaccinate everybody, with a population of 1.3 billion people and every person requiring two vaccine jabs.

“These endeavours aim to supplement the Covax efforts, and to ensure that as many dosages of vaccine as possible become available throughout Africa as soon as possible,” he explained.

Africa has registered more than three million Covid-19 cases and nearly 75,000 fatalities. By comparison, close to 23 million infections and more than 383,000 fatalities have been recorded in the US.

A global scramble to purchase vaccines has occurred, with wealthier nations accused of buying up much of the supply.

Africa seems to be at the back of the line to get vaccines for Covid-19, as many had expected.

The announcement of 270 million doses by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa – who is also the current President of the African Union – is positive news. This is in addition to those secured by the Covax facility, led by Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Alliance for Vaccines. The facility issued 600 million doses that were adequate to vaccinate just a fifth of the continent.

It could be a while before all of them get to the continent, however. These announcements are vaccine supply arrangements. The real procurement process that needs to happen is still there. There are ongoing talks.

Wealthier countries had a head start. They have already acquired the bulk of the early doses produced by manufacturers through advance purchase deals. To satisfy the demand, the race is on.

On the other hand, Africa also faces deficits in funding. There are concerns about the ability of the continent to obtain the vaccines, too. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require ultra-cold refrigeration. Countries work to build their cold chains. However, even this is marred by a lack of funds.

So, the continent can only wait.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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