African states purchase 400m J&J single-dose vaccines

  • 177,600 doses arrive in Ghana

On August 5, 2021, the continent announces the rollout of 400 million vaccine doses to African Union Member States and the Caribbean.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa and African Union (AU) COVID-19 Champion, who made the announcement, expressed excitement at monthly shipments of vaccines acquired by the AU / African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) to Member States

An initiative by the AU to pool their purchasing power, the AVAT, on March 28, 2021, had signed the historic agreement for the purchase of 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was selected for this first pooled procurement for three reasons: first of all, as a single-shot vaccine, it is easier and cheaper to administer; second, the vaccine has a long shelf-life and favourable storage conditions. Last but not least, the vaccine is partly manufactured on the African continent, with fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa.

President Ramaphosa said: “This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people. By working together and by pooling resources, African countries have been able to secure millions of vaccine doses produced right here in Africa. This will provide impetus to the fight against COVID-19 across the continent and will lay the basis for Africa’s social and economic recovery.”

The first monthly shipments has begun arriving in several Member States, and shipments will continue for a total of 6.4 million doses shipped in August.

Monthly shipments will continue and be continually ramped up, with a target of delivering almost 50 million vaccines before the end of December. By January 2022, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25 million per month. In collaboration with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), UNICEF is providing logistical and delivery services to the AU.

This vaccine acquisition is a unique milestone for the African continent. It is the first time Africa has undertaken a procurement of this magnitude involving all Member States. It also marks the first time that the AU Member States have collectively purchased vaccines to safeguard the health of the African population – 400 million vaccines are sufficient to immunise a third of the African people and bring Africa halfway towards its continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of the population. International donors have committed to deliver the remaining half of the doses required through the COVAX initiative.

It is significant that these vaccine doses are being produced on the African continent at the Aspen Pharmacare facility in Gqeberha in South Africa. This is part of the concerted effort by African countries to rally the world to support the TRIPS waiver for technology transfer and active pharmaceutical ingredients to develop our own manufacturing capabilities.

Out of the 400 million doses, Ghana received its share of 177,600 vaccine doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccines on the August 7, 2021 as one of the initial 10 countries to benefit from the gesture.

Welcoming the arrival of the vaccines in Ghana, Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu said: “since the start of this terrible Covid pandemic, Ghana has been doing everything possible to overcome its health and economic challenges in favor of its population. Today, our country is deeply proud to be one of the first African countries to receive the first Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses that were made in Africa.

I am delighted with the quick arrival of these doses, and I invite my fellow citizens to get vaccinated to stem the disease. I would like to thank all the partners who are supporting our country in its strategy to fight this pandemic which is impacting very negatively our lives and our economies.”

Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Sarah Adwoa Safo said: “the provision of these vaccines proudly produced on our continent is a major turning point in our fight against COVID-19. This bold step by the African Union and the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention will go a long way to curb the virus which has dangerously exposed us to a third wave.

This pandemic has had an adverse socio-economic effect on women and the most vulnerable in our country and has unearthed some of the inequalities we face as well as the barriers which reinforce our marginalisation.

I humbly appeal to all women to proactively take the vaccines and encourage their loved ones to do same to help us fight this virus so that life in Ghana as we know it can quickly return to normal.”

AVAT was established by the African COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, set up in November 2020 under the African Union chairmanship of President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, as part of the African Union’s COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Access Strategy, and its goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of the African population with safe and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19.

The agreement with Johnson & Johnson was made possible through a US$2 billion facility provided by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), who are also the financial and transaction advisers, guarantors, instalment payment advisers and payment agents, and the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) who coordinated the alignment of the AU Ministers of Finance on the financing arrangements.

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