What you need to know:
- The Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), set up by the African Union to acquire additional vaccine doses so that Africa, aims to immunise at least 60 per cent of the population.
An African Union vaccine acquisition task force, working to secure Covid-19 vaccines on behalf of the continent, has received an offer of 300 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
In a statement Friday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (AfricaCDC) said it is “tremendously proud” to offer the doses from May to the 54 member States.
The Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), set up by the African Union to acquire additional vaccine doses so that Africa, aims to immunise at least 60 per cent of the population.
Meanwhile, the AVATT says the 270 million doses previously secured from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson had all been taken up by the first allocation phase deadline, through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP). Speaking at the weekly online press briefing, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said about 26 countries have already submitted their applications to acquire 180 million doses of these vaccines.
With these additional 300 million Sputnik V vaccines, AMSP is accelerating online Covid-19 vaccine pre-orders for the African Union member states. The price of each dose was, however, not disclosed.
“We are grateful to receive the Sputnik V vaccines from the Russian Federation and tremendously proud to be able to offer them on the AMSP for our AU Member States,” said Dr Nkengasong.
The Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine gives around 92 per cent protection against Covid-19, late-stage trial results published in The Lancet revealed.
The analysis also showed that the shot is safe and offers complete protection against hospitalisation and death.
Although it was initially met with some controversy, after being rolled out before the final trial data had been released, the Sputnik vaccine works just like the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab developed in the UK, and the Janssen vaccine developed in Belgium.
It can be stored at temperatures of between 2 and 8C degrees (a standard fridge is roughly 3-5C degrees), making it easier to transport and store.
According to the statement released Friday, the vaccine will be available for a period of 12 months starting May.
Only seven countries in Africa, among them Rwanda, South Africa, and Morocco, have started to roll out vaccination programmes, lagging behind wealthier nations that have reportedly bought more vaccines than they need.
This has led to predictions that many low-income countries may not be able to reach mass immunisation until 2024.
From the statement, AU member States that wish to secure funding are advised to approach the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) through their central banks, as has been the case with other vaccines that have been on offer. Last week, Afreximbank’s board approved the $2 billion (about Sh219.2 billion) advance purchase commitment for the participating suppliers, allowing finalisation of supply contracts.
On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an emergency use authorisation (EUL) for AstraZeneca, as South Africa opted to give its doses to the AU after swapping them for Johnson&Johnson’s shots.
In Kenya, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the country, paving the way for its rollout in the coming weeks.
Rwanda also rolled out 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to high-risk groups, including frontline workers.
Asked about the AU deal with South Africa, the AfricaCDC director said the county is not giving the continental union the jabs for free. He noted that the doses are safe and from the same manufacturer supplying the AVATT with the doses for the continent - (Serum Institute India, SII).
“We will buy the doses from South Africa ... they are safe. South Africa is just not using it because it has been found to be ineffective against the new variant, but for countries where the valiant is not dominant, we advise them to proceed with the vaccine,” said Dr Nkengasong.
Additionally, he said, one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine purchased through a donation from MTN, a South Africa-based mobile telecommunications company, will be shipped to 20 countries next week.
“The allocation of these doses has been made based on countries’ populations. They are intended to be given to health workers,” Dr Nkengasong told the virtual briefing on Thursday.
The public health agency neither gave a list of the countries that will receive the jabs nor said whether all 20 are expected to receive them next week.
MTN in January announced a donation of $25 million to support the AU’s Covid-19 vaccination programme through the purchase of seven million doses.