SA set to receive over 5.6 million Pfizer vaccines this week
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South Africa is set to receive a donation of 5.66 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine from the US government.
White House officials told Reuters that nearly 10 million doses will be shipped to Nigeria and South Africa from Wednesday, as they were two of the most populous counties on the continent.
Four million doses of the Moderna vaccine will go to Nigeria and 5.66 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will go to South Africa.
A senior US government official told Business Day that half of the doses would arrive on Saturday and the other half will arrive at the beginning of August.
Last month, the Biden-Harris administration announced an allocation plan for 55 million doses to be shared globally.
“This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global effort to lead the world in the fight to defeat Covid-19, and to achieve global health security,” read a statement from the White House.
The shipment, en route to South Africa, is the largest sent by the US since it began sending Covid-19 vaccine doses to other countries. The US has sent a total of 16.4 million doses to the African continent.
According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the continent has administered more than 61 million vaccine doses to its population of over 1.3 billion people.
South Africa has administered more than 6.8 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, which accounts for around 10% of the population, who have received at least one shot.
“Sharing millions of US vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the US Government,” said the White House.
The urgently needed help comes amid growing concerns about vaccination rates in Africa, which lag far behind those of advanced economies.
Experts worry that the highly contagious Delta variant could pose another setback if countries begin requiring booster shots for fully-vaccinated individuals, a move that would slow shipments of urgently needed vaccines to developing countries.
The White House said equitable global access to safe and effective vaccines was essential to ending the pandemic.
"We are working to get as many safe and effective vaccines, to as many people around the world, as fast as possible," one of the White House officials said.
With the latest shipment to Nigeria and South Africa, the United States will exceed the 80 million vaccine doses that US President Joe Biden had pledged in May, to donate to countries around the world, one of the officials said.
Biden, in June, also announced plans to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses to 92 low- and lower middle income countries, and the African Union, but those shipments will begin next month, the official said.
(Additional reporting by Reuters)