By Asmau Ahmad
The World Bank (WB) and the African Union (AU) COVID-19 Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) have announced a decision to work together to deploy vaccines for 400 million Africans.
The pledge came after the president of the World Bank, David Malpass, met with the AVATT to discuss ways to accelerate vaccine deployment to Africa, according to a joint statement by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The AVATT had previously secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with the support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
The bank and the AVATT stressed the importance that countries get sufficient doses as quickly as possible and in an affordable way, according to the statement.
COVID-19 vaccines were critical for achieving the goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of Africans, said John Nkengasong, the director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and member of the AVATT.
Benedict Oramah, the president of Afreximbank, said his bank, by providing a 2 billion dollar guarantee on behalf of the AU member states, was able to help put Africa in a negotiating position with producers in negotiating vaccine procurement.
Under the AVATT structure, AU member states were allocated vaccines according to the size of their populations through a pooled procurement mechanism.
Once vaccines arrive across Africa, additional efforts would be required to support their deployment, which included in-country distribution (logistics and storage in line with the cold-chain requirements), securing the required systems, capacities and capabilities for vaccination.
As of Monday evening, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa had reached 5,049,036, with 134,818 deaths and 4,524,651 recoveries, according to the Africa CDC.
African countries have so far acquired around 54.9 million COVID-19 vaccines, which may cover about 2.1 per cent of the population at the continental level, the Africa CDC said.
Some 35.9 million COVID-19 doses have been administered continent-wide, accounting for about 65 per cent of the total supply available in Africa.
With minimal access to COVID-19 vaccines across the continent, latest figures show that only around 0.6 per cent of Africa’s population have received a full vaccine regimen.