ADDIS ABABA, 21 February 2021 – Russia has offered 300 million doses of the country’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, the African Union-created task force has confirmed.
The doses will be available in May 2021, a weekend statement from the task force read in part.
The African Union (AU) previously announced that it had secured 270 million does from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
Most of the donations to Africa so far have come not from the rich West, but from China, Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said his country wants to make vaccines rapidly available to African countries, but gave no details on how many doses it would be offering or when exactly they would become available.
Also on Friday, the United Kingdom committed to provide some of its COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, also on Friday, said it was extending $4 billion in support to fund access to vaccines for the continent.
The funding from Washington, DC, is being provided in two tranches, with the first part – $2 billion – expected to disbursed at the end of February 2021 and the second tranche to be disbursed over the next two years.
Africa’s leading mobile network provider, MTN, has jointed the line-up of donors, providing $25 million to the African Union-led plan to pool supply arrangements on behalf of all African countries.
MTN’s support is intended specifically to accelerate the inoculation of the continent’s healthcare workers.
These announcements come at a time when the United Nations has been decrying vaccine hoarding by rich countries while the most vulnerable across Africa and the rest of the developing world are allowed to die.
“It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
The WHO regional office for Africa based in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, says it expects African countries to begin receiving doses from the COVAX initiative by the end of February 2021.
An initial 90 million vaccine doses are expected to become available at that point, enough to cover a mere three percent of the Africa’s population..
COVAX is a global initiative which allows countries to pool resources to support the development, distribution, and expand access to effective vaccines at the most affordable prices thanks to collective bargaining.
COVAX has set itself the target of providing up to 600 million doses to Africa, enough to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the population by the end of 2021.
Under the most optimistic projections, Africa is expected to vaccinate about 35 percent of its population by the end of the year.
Public health experts estimate that herd immunity would require around 80 to 90 percent of the population to have COVID-19 immunity, either through prior infection or vaccination.
National health institutions across Africa reported a 40 percent increase in COVID-19 fatalities across Africa in January 2021 compared to December 2020 .
More than 22,000 people died from the virus across Africa during January 2021, according to Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
She encouraged African countries Friday to take urgent action to slow the spread of the virus and slow the rise in severe cases and hospitalizations that could overwhelm fragile to non-existent health systems in most African countries.
The good news since the end of January 2021 is that COVID-19-related deaths across the continent have slowed down considerably.
They were down 28 percent in the week ending last Sunday, according to latest data last updated Thursday by Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).