In a historic COVID-19 vaccine procurement Agreement signed on 28 March 2021, all African Union Member States will have access to 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) set up in November 2020 under the African Union chairmanship of H.E President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa will oversee the process.
The pharmaceutical giant manufacturing plant in South Africa, operated by Aspen Pharma, is expected to produce most of the supplies. The vaccines will be disseminated over a period of 18 months to African countries through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP).
“This agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans. It is also a powerful demonstration of African unity and of what we can achieve through a partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that put people first,” said President Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa toured the facilities of Aspen Pharma in Port Elizabeth with Johnson & Johnson Executives to inspect preparations for the production of vaccines.
The transaction was made possible through the US$2 billion facilities approved by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), who also acted as Financial and Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, Installment Payment Advisers and Payment Agents.
Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank, said “Afreximbank is proud to be associated with this historic and collective effort. In the midst of a very tight COVID-19 vaccine market, we are highly honoured to have been given the opportunity by the African Union to facilitate this impactful transaction under the auspices of the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).”
Prior to the conclusion of the agreement with Johnson & Johnson, African Member States were asked to make pre-orders for the vaccines and many countries showed a strong preference for this particular vaccine.
The countries will be able to purchase the vaccines either using cash, or a facility from Afreximbank. Most countries have already completed their pre-orders.
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% 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 Africa CDC recommended to the African Union that a minimum of 750 million Africans (60%) must be immunized if we are to contain the spread of COVID-19. This transaction enables Africa to meet almost 50% of that target. The key to this particular vaccine is that it is a single-shot vaccine which makes it easier to roll out quickly and effectively, thus saving lives,” highlighted Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).