A deal has been reached between pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson and African Union (AU) members states to make 400 million doses of vaccines available to Africa over the course of this year and the next.
J&J announced that the vaccines will be delivered to the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), a special purpose initiative set up to secure vaccines on behalf of African countries. Some 220 million vaccines will be delivered in the third quarter of this year, followed by 180 million in 2022.
The vaccine made by J&J is good for one-shots. As such, the provision by the company will go a long way to make it possible for the AU to reach its target of 60% population inoculation by the year’s end. Africa has about 1.2 billion people and most countries have already started vaccination programs.
South Africa was a destination of four different vaccine trials, including J&J’s. At the beginning of the year, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, who until recently was chaiperson of the AU, indicated that his country intended to lead the charge for vaccine equity on behalf of Africa.
South Africa hoped to come to an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to obtain affordable vaccines for the country and others in Africa. But while Johnson & Johnson undertook a trial in the Rainbow Nation, it made no promises of donating or selling vaccines to South Africa or any other country on the continent. J&J is said to begin manufacturing its vaccine in South Africa and will make about 300 million before the end of 2021.
Vaccines for many African countries comes via the COVAX program, a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative intended to ensure an equitable distribution in the face of global competition. Other donations by China and Russia see additions of the Sinopharm and Sputnik V respectively in wide usage.
But speaking after the announcement of the deal, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. called the addition of J&J “very good programmatically” and revealed that it would likely cost $10 a dose.