By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – The World Bank and the African Union (AU)'s COVID-19 Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) decided to work together to deploy vaccines for 400 million Africans.
This was agreed at a meeting between David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, and AVATT to discuss modalities to accelerate vaccine deployment to Africa, according to a statement by the UN Economic Commission for Africa late Monday.
The World Bank and the AVATT teams agreed to fast track all administrative procedures in order to ensure vaccines get into countries as early as possible.
The partnership will also be in form of logistics and storage support in line with the cold-chain requirements, securing the required systems, capacities and capabilities for vaccination.
“It also includes targeted research and campaigns to identify and address vaccine hesitancy through clear and targeted risk communication and community engagement,” the statement said.
The AVATT earlier secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with the support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
The World Bank and the AVATT emphasized the need to ensure countries expeditiously get sufficient doses and in an affordable manner.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in his capacity as chairperson of the African Union established the AVATT last November, mandated to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for AU members and provide the required financing.
Under the AVATT structure, AU members are allocated vaccines according to the size of their populations for purchase through a pooled procurement mechanism.
These vaccines complement the vaccines offered through the COVAX Facility, which has set out to deliver vaccines for up to 30% of participating countries’ populations.
COVID-19 vaccines are critical for achieving the goal of vaccinating at least 60% of Africans, said John Nkengasong, the director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and member of the AVATT.
Benedict Oramah, the president of Afreximbank, said his bank, by providing a $2 billion guarantee on behalf of the AU members, was able to help put Africa in a better negotiating position with vaccine producers.
African countries have so far acquired around 54.9 million COVID-19 vaccines, which may cover about 2.1% of the population at the continental level, according to the Africa CDC.
Some 35.9 million COVID-19 doses have been administered across the continent.
Latest figures indicate that only around 0.6% of Africa's population have so far received a full vaccine regimen.