Africa secures close to 300 million vaccine doses

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The African Union (AU) has secured close to 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the largest such agreement yet for Africa, a continental official said.

Senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Nicaise Ndembi, told The Associated Press (AP) in an interview that the current AU chair, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the news yesterday.

The 300 million doses are being secured independently of the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, Ndembi said.

“We have reached the final stage of our deals,” he said, referring questions about who will be providing the vaccines and at what cost.

The news comes as coronavirus infections spike again in parts of Africa, especially South Africa, where a rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus now makes up most of the new cases. The continent over the weekend surpassed three million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 1.2 million in South Africa.

“We plan to have these by the end of the first quarter” of 2021, Ndembi said of the nearly 300 million doses, which will be allocated on the continental platform the AU set up last year to make it easier for Africa’s 54 countries to pool their purchasing power and buy pandemic supplies in bulk.

A health worker checks the temperature of an elderly patient at the emergency entrance of the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa. PHOTO: AP