ADDIS ABABA, 14 January 2021 – The African Union (AU) says it has secured 270 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses for inoculation programs across the continent.
“We have so far secured a commitment of a provisional amount of 270 million vaccines from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Wednesday.
The South African leader holds the rotating presidency of the continental body.
At least 50 million of the doses will be available “for the crucial period of April to June 2021″, Ramaphosa added.
“These endeavours aim to supplement the Covax efforts, and to ensure that as many dosages of vaccine as possible become available throughout Africa as soon as possible,” Ramaphosa explained.
The 270 million doses are supposed to be on top of around an additional 600 million doses that the AU previously described as “secured” from the global COVAX initiative, founded by the World Health Organization to provide vaccines to poor countries.
The details on when the 600 million doses will be available or even how they are secured and which countries will benefit and in which numbers remain murky.
With a population of 1.3 billion people, the doses secured remain grossly inadequate to provide two jabs of the vaccines to each Africans.
In addition, Ramaphosa expressed grave concern Wednesday that the doses expected to be made available through COVAX during the first half of 2021 may only be enough to inoculate healthcare workers.
Infection rates across Africa have been comparatively low.
According to the Africa Cener for Disease Control (CDC), the continent has recorded 3.14 million cases.
No fewer than 75,709 people have died from complications caused by the virus with 2.56 million people reported to have fully recovered and be discharged from hospitals.
As bad as those numbers are, Africa with 1.3 billion inhabitants has, so far, fared far better than the United States which, with a population of 330 million has recorded 23 million infections and more than 385,000 fatalities.
The United Nations had predicted up to 3.3 million deaths in Africa, if no interventions were put in place.
Nigeria alone – with a population of nearly 200 million – was expected to record just south of 400,000 deaths.
As of Thursday, Nigeria has recorded 1,382 deaths from 104,000 cases with 82,555 full recoveries.
Cases are spiking across the continent, though, and fears are growing that the new, fast-spreading variants discovered in Nigeria and South Africa could make a bad situation worse.
Most of the new cases in South Africa have been blamed on the new variant.
There have been great concerns about richer countries buying off the entire supply of COVID-19 doses, bidding poorer countries out or raising prices so high as to make them unaffordable for most African countries.
Working with the World Health Organization and the COVAX initiative, founded to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines, the AU feels happy.