The African Union (AU) has called on international donors to hasten the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the African continent through the COVAX scheme as the global rollout of the doses accelerates.
The United Nations-backed COVAX scheme is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to participating countries, regardless of their income level.
In a statement, the AU through its Vaccine Acquisition Task Team [AVATT] welcomed an announcement from the COVAX team to begin releasing vaccines to Africa.
The international donors had announced plans to distribute 75 million vaccines to African countries between March and May 2021.
However, AU, in its statement said, the promised 75 million target is less than 10% of the 700 million promised by COVAX for this year.
The union urged the international donors to deliver the remaining doses in good time.
According to AU, Africa plans to vaccinate 750 million people to achieve 60% of its population.
“This means we need 1.5bn doses. We, therefore, have a long way to go,” said a spokesman.
Besides the donations, the Task Team said it would proceed to directly secure more vaccines, as those expected from donors are less than 30% of the total requirement.
The union noted that the breakthrough in the release of the COVAX vaccines came after intense lobbying by African leaders to European and American leaders during the just ended G7 summit.
“Days before the summit The Bureau of African Presidents, the highest organ of the AU leadership outside of its annual summits, held an urgent meeting with President Macron of France to discuss the none delivery of vaccines by COVAX, ” AU said in the statement dated March 1.
“President Macron promised to help address the delays.”
Ghana, Ivory Coast and Kenya are among African countries that have received the AstraZeneca vaccine delivered by COVAX.
Kenya received 1.02 million doses on Wednesday morning. The first batch will benefit health workers across the country.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
“The African Union would like to specifically thank the Indian government for its intervention in getting vaccines delivered from its factories, ” said AU.
“This follows a flurry of meetings with Indian government diplomats and their counterparts in Africa including the Foreign Minister of Nigeria.”