270 million vaccine doses secured for African countries
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DURBAN - The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (Avatt) has secured a provisional 270 million vaccine doses for African countries.
Avatt, which was established by AU chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa, said all the doses of vaccine would be made available this year, with at least 50 million being available during April to June.
The vaccines will be supplied by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca through independent licensee Serum Institute of India (SII).
This follows last week’s announcement by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize that South Africa would be receiving 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from the SII, with the first batch being delivered this month.
South Africa has also paid the Covax global Covid-19 vaccine distribution scheme for vaccines for 10% of the population.
The government said it aims to vaccinate at least 67% of the country's population, or 40 million people, starting with the 1.2 million front-line health-care workers.
The national Health Ministry could not say yesterday how many doses of the vaccines secured by Avatt would be available to South Africa.
Afreximbank would be supporting member states who want to access these vaccines based on a whole-of-Africa approach, Mkhize said.
“Afreximbank will, upon receipt of firm orders from member states, provide advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to $2 billion (R30bn) to the manufacturers on behalf of member states.”
Dr Aslam Dasoo, from the Progressive Health Forum, said if put in context, the additional doses would be minimal in vaccinating large parts of the population. He said additional vaccines were welcomed, but to make a dent and to aim for the herd immunity needed to ensure the virus is stabilised, more procurement had to be made.
"What we understand about it is that they have probably been placed on order. The continent will receive the first 50 million in the second quarter. It is going to take some time for those vaccines to arrive in their numbers.
"There are 54 countries in Africa and in distribution that would mean about less than 1 million doses per country. That would mean South Africa would receive 800 000 additional doses, which would be helpful but nowhere near what we need," Dasoo said.
Professor Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist from Wits University, shared similar sentiments and warned that the focus should be on whether African countries have the needed systems in place to roll out the vaccines.
"No, it is not enough. Even if you only target adults in the continent you will still probably be short of vaccines for another 400 million adults," he said. "I think we need to stop fooling ourselves in terms of claiming victories by talking about 270 million doses of vaccines. It's about when the vaccines become available.
"There needs to be more openness about which vaccine it is and when those vaccines will become available and which countries will it be distributed to and what quantity. And more importantly, the bigger issue is the timelines, and another issue is the ability of governments to make sure that people become immunised. Vaccines are useless if they sit in depots," Madhi said.