The African Union secured almost 300 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for the continent, a step toward starting the complex task of inoculating more than 1.2 billion people with limited logistical and financial resources.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the AU chairman, is expected to give more detail on the vaccines later on Wednesday, according to Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The order would be by far the largest on the continent to date.
While several wealthy nations around the world pre-ordered vaccines ahead of regulatory approval and have now started rollouts, there are concerns Africa has been left behind. The continent has recorded more than 3 million infections, a fraction of the global figure of more than 91 million, though less reliable reporting methods and skepticism from some leaders may have distorted the figure.
Many African nations are relying on Covax, a global initiative to ensure equitable access to vaccines. However, the AU’s 300 million doses will come from other sources, the Associated Press reported, citing Nicaise Ndembi, senior science adviser for the Africa CDC. Deliveries should be made by the end of March and talks have been taking place with more than 10 manufacturers, he said.
South Africa has secured 20 million inoculation doses for itself, Ramaphosa said earlier this week, although only 1.5 million for health workers have been confirmed. The country is experiencing a resurgence of the virus after an initial wave peaked in July, with active cases and hospital admissions at new records.