ETHIOPIA – The World Bank, lead by president, Mr David Malpass, and African Union’s COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) have announced a partnership that will accelerate vaccine deployment to at least 400 million Africans.

The AVATT had previously secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with the support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

The WB and the AVATT stressed the importance that countries get sufficient doses as quickly as possible and in an affordable way, according to the statement.

COVID-19 vaccines are critical for achieving the goal of vaccinating at least 60 percent of Africans, said John Nkengasong, the director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and member of the AVATT.

Benedict Oramah, the president of Afreximbank, said his bank, by providing a 2-billion-U.S.-dollar guarantee on behalf of the AU member states, was able to help put Africa in a negotiating position with producers in negotiating vaccine procurement.

Under the AVATT structure, AU member states are allocated vaccines according to the size of their populations through a pooled procurement mechanism.

Once vaccines arrive across Africa, additional efforts will be required to support their deployment, which includes in-country distribution (logistics and storage in line with the cold-chain requirements), securing the required systems, capacities and capabilities for vaccination.

Slow vaccine rollout

However, Asefa Wondwossen, Deputy Regional Director for Africa at Project HOPE, has said that Africa’s lack of vaccine is not the only reason for slow vaccine rollout.

In order to speed up COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Project HOPE recommends countries to take a three-fold approach.

Building coordination and leadership capacity at the national and sub-national level, training health care workers and vaccinators on the administration of different vaccines as well as monitoring and managing adverse effects, and developing tactics to improve community awareness on vaccine safety and address hesitancy.

Earlier this year, Project HOPE launched an online training in collaboration with Africa-CDC and Brown University targeting 37 African countries to ensure local vaccinators are prepared and ready to meet the demands of their roles as COVID-19 vaccines become available.

As of June 9th, 2021, Africa had administered 65.4% of its vaccine supply, which translates to only 2.08% and 0.61% of the population receiving the first and second doses of the COVI-19 vaccine respectively. For Africa, the aim is to vaccinate at least 20% of the population by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021.

Last week, the World Health Organization warned that 47 of Africa’s 54 countries were set to miss the September target of vaccinating 10% of their populations unless the continent receives 225 million more doses.

As Africa records the world’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate, the emergence of more contagious variants increases, as well as the risk for the first generation of vaccines to become ineffective.