In a strategic, proactive move to ensure that the continent of Africa receives sufficient supplies of the much-awaited Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available, the African Union together with the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has begun talks with Chinese, Russian and other manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines over possible partnerships.
This move is necessitated following encouraging results from late-stage trials of several vaccine candidates which have now turned attention to the distribution of billions of doses around the world, and subsequently, triggered concerns from the AU, the Africa CDC and national governments that African countries will either be priced out of the market or placed at the end of the list of recipients for a future Covid-19 vaccine.
According to Dr. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa CDC, who noted, while speaking at the Bloomberg Invest Africa Conference, that since vaccine supplies from the WHO’s COVAX alliance will only provide for up to 20% of a country’s population, there is need to explore multiple avenues to make up the difference, also stated that “We are not limiting ourselves to any particular partner. As a continent of 1.2 billion people, we are willing to work with any partner who adheres to our strategic plan for vaccine development and access in Africa”.
Of the successful vaccines developed so far, the US holds most orders for Moderna, while the EU dominates the Pfizer order book. Russia relies on its vaccine which was approved, albeit amid controversy, in August and October, and China relies on the vaccine from its pharmaceutical firm, Sinopharm, which has applied for approval for its vaccine.
China, on the one hand, committed to making its vaccine a “global public good”, has promised that once the development and deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit.
African countries on the other hand, are also open to several other options on how best they can access vaccines for their citizens including the global COVAX facility, individual African country purchase plans, pooled procurement through the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and broader schemes through the African Union (AU).
Analysts have projected that Africa will need over 2 billion doses of vaccine, given that 70% coverage is what is needed for herd immunity and also that most of the vaccines require two doses.