African Union member states can now start placing online pre-orders for their COVID-19 vaccines after the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), through an online platform Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) commenced a pre-order programme for countries.
The move follows an announcement by the African Union Chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa that they had secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for Africa. It is meant to ensure that countries have equitable and timely access to the drug.
As the programme was being launched on Thursday, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) also announced that the entity will be facilitating payments by providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to USD 2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of member countries.
The African Union Special Envoy Strive Masiyiwa referred to this as historical. “These are historical times. For the first time in history, Africa has secured access to millions of vaccine doses in the middle of a pandemic as most of the Western countries”, he said in a statement.
He added that there is still a huge shortage of vaccine doses and that is why thee continental collaboration has designed a fair allocation coupled with timely and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines across the continent. The initially secured vaccine doses are from global pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
In addition to ensuring the availability of the Vaccine, the Africa Medical Supplies Platform has also launched a new category on vaccine accessories which will help the 55 member states procure products such as ultra-low temperature freezers, personal protection equipment, cotton wool rolls, syringes and needles.
Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of Africa CDC said that financing of the vaccines and the logistics of vaccinating at scale has been the biggest challenges to COVID-19 vaccine access in Africa. “But we are glad that this gap is being filled by the financing facility. The critical decision now is how to get started so that once we start there will be no disruptions and this is where AMSP will play a very big role,” he said.
Earlier, the World Health Organisation cautioned that Africa is in danger of being left behind in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as countries in other regions strike bilateral deals and driving prices up.
Although vaccines have been administered in 50 wealthier nations, Guinea is the sole low-income country on the continent to receive doses, with only 25 people being inoculated so far. Meanwhile, Seychelles is the only African country to start a national vaccination campaign.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa says that health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, yet, the rest of the world is closing the continent out as each country, pushes a “me-first” approach.
However, many countries in Africa have already placed orders for the vaccine. For instance, for Uganda, an order of two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine has already been made.
Dr Diana Atwiine the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health says they plan to make more orders for the vaccine although it’s still unclear whether it will be through the just launched Africa pre-order programme or the GAVI coordinated Global Vaccine Access Facility- COVAX.