World Bank, AU agree to deploy vaccines for 400m Africans


The President of the World Bank, Mr. David Malpass, and his senior management team comprising Dr. Axel van Trotsenburg and Dr. Makhtar Diop met with the African Union’s COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) to discuss modalities for a partnership that will accelerate vaccine deployment to Africa.

In a historic COVID-19 vaccine procurement agreement signed on 28th March 2021, the AVATT had previously successfully secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with support from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

The President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, said in providing a US$2billion guarantee on behalf of the African Union member-states, the Bank was able to help put Africa in a strong negotiating position with producers as they negotiated vaccine procurement.

According to him, it was obvious that no deal would have been possible without a strong financial backing.  The Johnson and Johnson doses are a critical step toward the continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 percent of Africans.

Dr. John N. Nkengasong, Director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and Member of the AVATT, said reaching this target is a prerequisite to saving African lives and livelihoods, safely reopening the economies, and resuming the economic development agenda.

With over 41 countries at different stages of finalising their orders for purchasing the vaccine and with vaccination momentum growing, it is essential that countries feel they can get sufficient doses quickly and in an affordable way.

Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, African Union Special Envoy and coordinator of the AVATT, on his part said the World Bank’s decision to partner with AVATT on the heels of the US announcement about dose-sharing means countries can be assured they can both access and finance the vaccines they need.

Under the AVATT structure, AU member-states are allocated vaccines for purchase according to the size of their populations through a pooled procurement mechanism. These vaccines complement those offered through the COVAX Facility, which has set out to deliver vaccines for up to 30 percent of participating countries’ populations to enable the AU member-states to reach the continental target.

His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa, in his capacity as Chair of the African Union, established the AVATT on 6th November 2020 and mandated it to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for AU member-states and provide the required financing.

The World Bank and AVATT teams agreed to fast-track all administrative procedures in order to ensure vaccines get into countries as early as possible.

Once the vaccines arrive in the member-states, additional efforts will be required to support their deployment. This includes in-country distribution (logistics and storage in line with the cold-chain requirements), securing the required systems, capacities and capabilities for vaccination.

It also includes targetted research and campaigns to identify and address vaccine hesitancy through clear and targetted risk communication and community engagement. These activities will require a significant lift by countries, and the additional support is going to be critical.

Looking ahead, Ms. Vera Songwe-United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic for Africa (ECA), recalled that the pandemic served to expose vulnerabilities already existing in Africa’s health systems which were well documented in the ECA’s Health and Economic Growth in Africa (HEGA) report of 2019.

In conclusion, she noted that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) now provides the platform for building a resilient and inclusive health system, with local production of vaccines, medicines and medical equipment on the continent.

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