The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has secured a provisional 270-million Covid-19 vaccine doses for African countries and at least 50-million will be available from April to June, according to South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“These doses are from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca through the Serum Institute of India and Johnson & Johnson. Because of the high cost of vaccines, the task team has arranged with Afreximbank (Africa Export-Import Bank) to support member states who want to access these vaccines based on a whole-of-Africa approach,” he said.
Ramaphosa was addressing the African Covid-19 vaccine financing and deployment strategy webinar on Wednesday.
“Should countries submit firm offers, Afreximbank has committed to provide advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2-billion to the manufacturers on behalf of member states.”
He said that developed countries, which have substantial financial resources, have purchased the largest stocks, while the African continent is struggling to get its fair share.
“The painful irony is that some of the clinical trials for these vaccines were carried out in Africa. In other cases, vaccines are packaged right here on the continent, yet we struggle to access them for our populations.”
Vaccine prices are high, and many countries may not afford to vaccinate enough of their population to achieve herd immunity.
South Africa has recorded 1 430 648 cases and 42 550 deaths, since the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in March 2020.
The most important public health measure to prevent Covid-19 is a vaccine, the president said.
For the past year, efforts have been under way to find vaccines that are both safe and effective.
“We finally have achieved the goal, with a number of vaccines having undergone clinical trials and passed stringent safety tests. Now they are being produced. The task before us is to step up global solidarity to ensure equitable access to the vaccines,” Ramaphosa said.
All countries must get vaccines and must get them speedily, he said. It is vital to the global containment of Covid-19 that vaccination takes place in all countries and among all populations.
Along with India, South Africa has proposed an agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) waiver in response to the pandemic.
“We are calling on the World Trade Organization to waive specific TRIPS obligations related to the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 for a defined period,” Ramaphosa said.
“We need more countries to support this initiative.”
This would enable countries in Africa and elsewhere to access active pharmaceutical ingredients and benefit from technology transfer, including the know-how to manufacture vaccines in Africa at a cheaper cost.
The African Union team and the World Bank are collaborating to ensure that member states can have access to further funding.
“We will need to examine issues such as financing and streamlined regulatory processes, reliance mechanisms, logistics, human resources, governance, communication, community engagement strategies, and country readiness,” said the president.