The African Union has announced that the distribution of 400 million Johnson & Johnson doses throughout the continent begins today, a long-awaited development that will ensure at least a third of Africans have access to inoculation.
According to an African Union statement this afternoon, part of the 400 million doses will be manufactured in South Africa, where Johnson & Johnson recently signed a fill-finish deal with Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth)-based pharmaceutical firm, Aspen.
The African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) sealed the Johnson & Johnson deal in March, with the Afreximbank and the World Bank providing resources to purchase and deploy the vaccines. Botswana however self-financed its participation in the AVAT.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was chosen for three reasons. First of all as a single-shot vaccine, it is easier and cheaper to administer, the vaccine has a long shelf-life and favourable storage conditions and lastly, it is partly manufactured on the African continent,” an AU statement reads.
South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, welcomed the latest developments saying by pooling their resources together, African countries had been able to procure millions of vaccines and have them produced in the continent. The Johnson & Johnson deal is the first time Africa has undertaken a joint procurement effort of that magnitude.
“This will provide impetus to the fight against COVID-19 across the continent and will lay the basis for Africa’s social and economic recovery,” he said.
According to the AU, in August, 6.4 million doses will be shipped to various countries, then monthly deliveries will be ramped up to a target of 50 million before the end of December.
“By January, the number of vaccines being released will be in excess of 25 million per month,” the AU said.
In Parliament, Dikoloti had said besides the Johnson & Johnson doses, Botswana was also expecting from the COVAX facility, 93,000 doses of the same vaccine, 81,900 of Pfizer and 61,200 of the Sinovac jab. All the deliveries are expected between August and September, he said.