The African Union (AU) has obtained 270 million anti-Covid vaccines for the continent, which most countries do not have the means to finance the immunization of their population, announced Wednesday evening (January 13) in a press release. South Africa, which holds the rotating AU presidency.
The vaccines, of which at least 50 million will be available between April and June, will be supplied by the laboratories Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca (whose production is in India) and Johnson & Johnson. “We have taken a further step to obtain vaccines independently using our own limited resources”, underlined the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, quoted in the press release.
Agreements to help African countries finance the purchase of these vaccines have been signed with the pan-African Afreximbank (Africa Export-Import Bank) and the World Bank.
Africa has been officially relatively spared from the pandemic so far: the continent has recorded just over 3 million cases and more than 74,000 deaths, according to official data, against 16 million cases and more than 500,000 deaths for South America and the Caribbean for example.
First doses between late January and mid-February
But several countries on the continent are facing a virulent second wave of the epidemic, such as South Africa, the country by far the most affected with more than 1.2 million cases and some 35,000 deaths. .
The initiative launched by the AU is distinct from the Covax system of the World Health Organization (WHO) and private partners for equitable access to vaccines. WHO’s goal is to deliver doses for up to 20% of the population of participating countries by the end of the year, with funding for these vaccines secured for the 92 poorest countries or slightly more. rich in the world.
Last week, the WHO announced that they would receive the first doses between late January and mid-February. “While the Covax initiative is essential for Africa, the African Union fears that the volumes, which will be available between February and June, will not exceed the needs for caregivers and therefore not be sufficient to contain the growing figures of the pandemic in Africa ”, explains the press release.
In addition, the goal of immunizing 20% of the population is not enough to curb the virus, adds the text. “Scientists at the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention [Africa CDC] indicated that we need to reach at least 60% of the population to significantly slow the spread of the disease. “
The AU mission to find vaccines is in discussions with other manufacturers to obtain more vaccines, the statement said, as “The road is still long” to defeat the coronavirus, admitted Mr Ramaphosa.