The African Union secured 270 million COVID-19 vaccines for the continent, a step toward starting the complex task of inoculating more than 1.2 billion people with limited logistical and financial resources.
Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson will provide the doses, of which 50 million will be available between April and June, according to a statement from the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the AU chairman.
While several wealthy nations around the world pre-ordered vaccines ahead of regulatory approval and have now started rollouts, there were concerns Africa would be 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.
“From the onset of this pandemic, our focus as a continent has been on collaboration and collective effort,” Ramaphosa said in the statement. “We have held steadfastly to the principle that no country should be left behind.”
Many African nations are relying on Covax, a global initiative to ensure equitable access to vaccines, and the AU’s 270 million doses will complement that, according to the statement.
The African Export-Import Bank will provide procurement commitment guarantees of as much as US$2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of countries that want access to the vaccines.
South Africa has separately secured 20 million 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.