Zimbabwe is set to get more than five million COVID-19 vaccinations in the coming few weeks after the African Union (AU), African Vaccine acquisition Trust (AVAT) and United Nations Children’s emergency Fund (Unicef) secured 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The country last month approved the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in addition to other registered vaccines from India, Russia and China, as government ramps up efforts to inoculate more than 10 million to attain 60% herd immunity.
Like many other African countries, the country is in the grips of a third wave of infections, after it registered 112 435 cumulative cases and 3 676 deaths, while over 2,5 million had been vaccinated by Tuesday this week, according to official data.
Experts said the aU, Unicef and aVaT partnership, which sought to ensure seamless procurement and delivery of vaccines to aU member States, would help boost efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic as less than 2% of people on the continent have been fully vaccinated so far.
African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa, who has been instrumental in securing the vaccines, said the coming on board of Unicef will assist in thwarting the third wave of the deadly coronavirus that is raging across the continent.
“We are pleased to have Unicef as a strategic partner in the delivery of these vaccines to our member States, as they are extremely experienced in handling and managing vaccines, and have a strong and well-established relationship with all aU member States,” Masiyiwa said.
Established by African leaders, AVAT has spearheaded fair, equitable access and distribution of vaccines, negotiating vaccine acquisition with pharmaceutical companies to cater for at least 60% of the African population with safe and efficacious vaccines to achieve herd immunity by 2022.
The procurement of these vaccine doses has been made possible with the support of the African export-import bank (Afreximbank), which provided a US$2 billion advance Procurement Commitment (APC) Guarantee facility to Johnson & Johnson on behalf of aU member States.
The bank also made available direct financing to aU member States which require funding to pay for the vaccines. in April 2021, Afreximbank made a down payment of US$330 million to Johnson & Johnson on behalf of AU member States to show its commitment to the agreement.
The AVAT and Unicef partnership will also work to increase procurement and manufacturing on the continent as part of a broader strategy for sustainable health systems and job creation in Africa.