UNICEF inks deal with Janssen Pharmaceutica to supply Covid-19 vaccine to AU

AFRICA – UNICEF has signed an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica to supply up to 220 million doses of the J&J single-dose vaccine for all 55 Member States of the African Union (AU) by the end of 2022.

The agreement between UNICEF and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV will help implement the Advance Purchase Commitment (APC) signed between the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and Janssen in March of this year.

This agreement secured an option to order another 180 million doses, bringing the maximum access up to a total of 400 million doses by the end of 2022. 

The African Union established AVAT in November 2020 to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the African continent, with a goal of vaccinating 60 per cent of each AU country’s population.

Under the plan, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and AVAT have signed a cooperation agreement on behalf of the AU for the development of an Advance Procurement Commitment (APC) Framework to support Member State access to COVID-19 vaccines.

UNICEF will procure and deliver COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the AVAT initiative. Other partners include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the World Bank.

While multiple vaccines are anticipated to be part of the initiative’s portfolio, Janssen’s single-dose vaccine is the first to be included.

African countries must have affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible. Vaccine access has been unequal and unfair, with less than 1 per cent of the population of the African continent currently vaccinated against COVID-19. This cannot continue,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine received a WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) on 12 March and is relying on a global supply network to produce the vaccine.

The latest site for production, Aspen Pharmacare in Gqeberha, South Africa, was approved by the WHO on 29 June.

Deliveries of the vaccine are expected to begin later in the 3rd quarter of 2021, with allocations to be determined by the Africa CDC. 35 million doses are to be delivered by the end of this year.

The agreement comes as the African continent faces the brutal third wave of infections, fueled by the delta variant, and vaccine supply challenges have left many countries with large unvaccinated populations.

The continent has so far reported 6,467,841 coronavirus cases, 5,621,517 recoveries and over 164,000 fatalities. So far, 20 million Africans, representing 1.5% of the continent’s population, are fully vaccinated whereby only 1.7% of the 3.7 billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa.

Speaking during the weekly coronavirus briefing, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, urged African nations to scale up operations in order to ensure efficient vaccine distribution among populations.

Dr. Moeti made these remarks with regard to the new age of relieved squeeze on vaccine shipments. The continent has started receiving large shipments of vaccines from the United States of America, Team Europe, the United Kingdom, purchased doses and other partners through the COVAX Facility.

Over the last week and in coming weeks, 60 million vaccines doses are expected to doc into the continent as over half a billion doses are expected through COVAX alone this year.

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