US promises Botswana vaccines

Government recently purchased Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine from China PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
Government recently purchased Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine from China PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG

As United States (US) donations of COVID-19 doses start to spread across the continent, authorities in that country have made assurance that Botswana will also receive assistance, as cases and deaths escalate.

However, US authorities cannot say when Botswana can expect a shipment from its long time strategic partner.

In partnership with the African Union (AU) and COVAX, the US will donate 25 million COVID-19 vaccines to 49 African countries but Botswana is not among the first batch of countries to benefit from the doses. The first vaccines have been delivered to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Gambia, Lesotho and Senegal, with many more to come over the coming weeks and months.

During a digital press briefing on the U.S. Donations of COVID-19 Vaccines to the African Union, State Department Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security Gayle Smith said the US president Joe Biden’s focus was on the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) countries under COVAX and the countries of the AU.

The COVAX AMC is the innovative financing instrument that will support the participation of 92 low- and middle-income economies in the COVAX Facility, enabling access to donor-funded doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The AMC, combined with additional support for country readiness and delivery, will make sure the most vulnerable in all countries can be protected in the short term, regardless of income level.

Smith said they look around the world and see what the levels of vaccine availability are and what incidence is. “We look at what may be available elsewhere. And then we allocate accordingly. One of the reasons that we spread this first tranche of doses so far and wide across the continent is that coverage is universally low, so we want to start building that up as quickly as possible,” Smith further explained.

She said they are also aiming at equity and then they make the allocation. In terms of criterion and why Botswana didn’t make it into these initial lists, Smith revealed that they look at a number of things like coverage of the vaccines, vulnerabilities and what they know about the state of the pandemic in a given country. Speaking of the state of the pandemic, last month, President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced in an interview with US cable news television channel CNN that Botswana have been able to order enough vaccines for every adult in the country.

In addition, Biden's administration has also pledged that they would provide 500 million doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to about 100 countries over the next two years. About 200 million doses will be distributed this year, with the remainder delivered in 2022.

Smith revealed the doses that the President committed just before the G7 summit, will also start moving in August, and a significant portion of those will also be deployed to Africa. She said they are working with the African Union and the Africa CDC to move these vaccines out there as quickly as possible. With August just around the corner, it is yet to be seen whether Botswana will be snubbed again ahead of other African states.

Responding to an inquiry from this publication, US Embassy in Botswana revealed that Botswana is on the list of African countries set to receive additional vaccines. “The U.S. Embassy does not have information on when Botswana will receive the additional vaccines from COVAX at this time”. When questioned whether Botswana had sought any assistance from the U.S. to secure doses, the U.S. Embassy revealed that they has worked in close coordination with Botswana health authorities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic on helping Botswana manage its

While Botswana was not prioritized as one of the countries that need vaccines urgently, The US Embassy added that the U.S. government is committed to sharing vaccines with Botswana to support the global effort to control the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Biden Administration is committed to leading the global response to the pandemic by providing safe and effective vaccines to the world”.

Although he didn’t mention country by name President Masisi has condemned the behavior of powerful vaccine hoarders in the developed world. While the US have been accused of using these donations as part of a geopolitical tug of war with China, US officials have emphasized that the donations come with 'no strings attached'. “We want to see Africa defeat this pandemic. We want to see Africa be resilient and to thrive”.

Meanwhile neighboring SADC state Zambia has received a second batch of 151,200 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the US as part of a dose-sharing system through the UN COVAX facility.

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