African Union (AU) officials on Thursday said it has begun the delivery of 220 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses to member countries, with the potential to distribute an additional 180 million doses in the future, reported CGTN Africa.
According to the AU, it chose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the first pooled procurement for three reasons. Firstly, it is a single-shot vaccine that is easier and cheaper to administer. Secondly, the vaccine has a long shelf-life and favorable storage conditions, and thirdly, the vaccine is partly manufactured on the African continent, with fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa.
“This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of its people,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the AU COVID-19 Champion.
He said African nations have been able to secure millions of vaccine doses produced in Africa by working together and by pooling resources. He added that the vaccine will provide impetus to the continent’s fight against COVID-19 across the continent and will lay the basis for Africa’s social and economic recovery.
Some 6.4 million doses are expected to be shipped in August. Monthly shipments will continue and be continually ramped up, with a target of delivering about 50 million vaccines by the end of December.
Notably, Africa is currently reeling through a third wave of the pandemic and in the past four weeks, the continent has recorded a 2% increase in case numbers and a 6% increase in deaths.
The vaccine shipment is expected to bolster the continent’s mass vaccination campaign which has lagged behind other regions so far. So far, only around 1.1 percent of the continent’s population has received at least one vaccine dose.
During a virtual news conference, John Nkengasong, head of Africa’s disease control body, said as of Monday, African nations had received a total of 103 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from all sources.