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African countries sign agreement for 400 million doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines

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African countries are racing to increase vaccination coverage on the continent – targeting 60 per cent coverage, the continent hopes to be at par with the developed world. As a result, member states of the African Union (AU), made up of the 54 countries of Africa have signed an agreement with the pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson for 220 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccines, with potential to order an additional 180 million doses, to bring the toal to 400 million.

The agreement signed Sunday March 28, 2021 through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), set up in November 2020 by the AU, will acquire the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine most of which will be produced at the pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in South Africa operated by Aspen Pharma.

The vaccines, when obtained, will be distributed to the countries through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), over a period of 18 months, according to a press release copied to ghanabusinessnews.com.

According to the release, the transaction was made possible through the $2 billion facility approved by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), who also acted as Financial and Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, Installment Payment Advisers  and Payment Agents.

The successful conclusion of the Agreement was made possible by the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), who supported the negotiation process with Johnson & Johnson. UNICEF is also acting as procurement and logistics agent. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) was supported in terms of advice on various aspects by the World Health Organization (WHO), the release said.

It noted further that the direct acquisition of vaccines by the African countries through the AVATT initiative is part of the continental objective to achieve a minimum of 60 per cent immunization of the African population, in order to eliminate COVID-19.

“This target is in line with targets set in other regions such as Europe and the United States. The international donor community has pledged to provide 27 per cent through the COVAX Initiative (which is coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO), whilst Africa must find the rest. AVATT and COVAX work very closely together,” it added.

Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, African Union Special Envoy signed for AVAT, while Mr. Jaak Peeters, Johnson & Johnson Special Envoy for COVID-19 vaccine, signed on behalf of Johnson & Johnson.

The African continent has not been spared the COVID-19 pandemic. It was slow to reach the continent when it first broke out, but the impact though disruptive, hasn’t been as grim as predicted. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as at March 27, 2021, 47 countries in Africa have been affected by the pandemic. The countries all-together have recorded cumulatively, more than three million cases (3,026,572), with 77, 190 deaths.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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