The African Union and drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson have signed a deal for 400 million covid-19 vaccine doses.
A statement on Monday says the historic single-shot COVID-19 vaccine procurement agreement is expected to allow all au member-states access to the vaccines that will be sent in two batches.
Last November, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) was set up, chaired by South African president Cyril Ramaphosa. The vaccines will be made available to African countries through the African medical supplies platform over a period of 18 months.
Most of the supplies will be produced at the giant pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in South Africa operated by Aspen pharma.
The statement revealed that Ramaphosa will later today tour the facilities of aspen pharma in Port Elizabeth with Johnson & Johnson executives to inspect preparations for the production of vaccines. The production of vaccines at the facility will be a massive boost for jobs in South Africa.
The transaction was made possible through the $2 billion facility approved by the African export-import bank (Afreximbank), who also acted as financial and transaction advisers, guarantors, installment payment advisers and payment agents.
“The successful conclusion of the agreement was made possible by the support of the united nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), who supported the negotiation process with Johnson & Johnson. UNICEF is also acting as procurement and logistics agent.
“The Avatt was supported in terms of advice on various aspects by the World Health Organization (WHO),” it added.
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 strong preference for the vaccine. The countries would be able to purchase the vaccines either using cash, or a facility from Afreximbank. Most countries have already completed their pre-orders.
The statement pointed out that the direct acquisition of vaccines by the African countries through the Avatt initiative was part of the continental objective to achieve a minimum of 60 per cent immunization of the African population, in order to eliminate COVID-19. This target was in line with targets set in other regions such as Europe and the United States.
The international donor community had pledged to provide 27 per cent through the Covax initiative (which is coordinated by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, the coalition for epidemic preparedness innovations (Cepi) and the who), whilst Africa must find the rest. Avatt and Covax work very closely together.
“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 partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that puts people first,” Ramaphosa said.
On his part, president of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah 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 honored 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).
“Acting as financial and transaction advisors, guarantors, installment payment facility arrangers and payment agents, we look forward to beginning the deployment of the $2 billion vaccine procurement facility approved by the bank’s board of directors towards assisting the continent to begin to rid itself of the pandemic and rebuild its economy.
“this financing will support intra-African trade and we have already commenced engagement with our financial partners to secure the additional funding that would support procurement if Africa decides to procure the additional 180 million doses.”
The director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr. John Nkengasong, said: “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 per cent 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.”
African union special envoy signed, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, signed for Avat, while, Johnson & Johnson special envoy for COVID-19 vaccine, Mr. Jaak Peeters, signed on behalf of Johnson & Johnson.
DR Congo Begins COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign
The Democratic Republic of Congo will begin its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Monday after suspending the exercise over fears regarding the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In early March, more than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines arrived in the DR Congo as part of the COVAX initiative but the country postponed the vaccination after studies in South Africa questioned its efficacy on the variant that is dominant in the country.
Having now reassured the public that the doses are safe for use, the country’s health minister Eteni Longondo said priority will be given to health personnel, people who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and basic social personnel, that is to say those who are in constant contact with the public.
Zimbabwe Frees Some Inmates To Reduce COVID-19 Risk In Jails
Zimbabwe government has begun releasing prisoners amid concerns of overcrowding and coronavirus pandemic. About 3,000 prisoners have been released under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.
Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity of 17,000 prisoners but held about 22,000 before the amnesty declared by president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.
Those to be released had been convicted of non-violent crimes. All females imprisoned for non-violent crimes and who served a third of their sentences are to be released, and all disabled persons convicted of non-violent crimes. Africa centers for disease control and prevention data show, Zimbabwe has recorded 37,534 cases of covid-19, including 1,551 deaths.
Authorities say, those convicted of crimes such as murder, treason, human trafficking, and sexual offenses will not benefit.
President Mnangagwa also commuted death sentences to life sentences for many prisoners on death row. Zimbabwe still has the death penalty but has not hanged anyone in years.
Authorities have suspended visits to prisons while plans are made to vaccinate inmates as part of measures to combat the spread of the virus. Political activists who have been sent to prison as part of a government crackdown on dissent have spoken of dire conditions, which they said put inmates at risk of both starvation and disease outbreak.
In another response to the pandemic, Zimbabwe has canceled the independence day celebrations planned for April 18 to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Egypt: At Least 11 Killed, 100 Injured In Train Crash North Of Cairo
At least 11 persons have been killed in Egypt in a train accident. Egypt’s health ministry said in a statement, at least 100 persons were also injured on Sunday in the crash in Egypt’s Qalioubia province north of Cairo. Around 60 ambulances were sent to take the injured from the scene to nearby hospitals.
Railway authorities say at least four train wagons ran off the tracks at the city of Banha in the province. The train was travelling to the Nile Delta city of Mansoura from the Egyptian capital.
Sunday’s train accident came three weeks after two passenger trains collided in the province of Sohag, killing at least 18 persons and injuring 200 others, including children.
The government says it has launched a broad renovation and modernization initiative in the railway system.
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