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World Bank, AVATT agrees to fast track distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa

By Bisola Adeyemo

As part of efforts to deploy COVID-19 vaccine to Africa, the World Bank team and the African Union’s COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) agreed to fast track all administrative procedures in order to ensure vaccines get into countries as early as possible.

In a historic COVID-19 vaccine procurement agreement signed on March 28, 2021, the AVATT had previously successfully secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with the support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

“In providing a $2billion guarantee on behalf of the African Union member states, we were able to help put Africa in a strong negotiating position with producers as we negotiated vaccine procurement. It was obvious to us at AVATT that no deal will have been possible without a strong financial backing,” President of Afreximbank, Prof Benedict Oramah, said.

“The Johnson and Johnson doses are a critical step towards the continental goal of vaccinating at least 60 per cent of Africans. Reaching this target is a prerequisite to saving African lives and livelihoods, safely reopening our economies and resuming our economic development agenda,” said Dr John N Nkengasong, Director of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and Member of the AVATT.

“The World Bank’s decision to partner with AVATT on the heels of the US announcement about dose sharing means countries can be assured they can both access and finance the vaccines they need,” said Mr Strive Masiyiwa, African Union Special Envoy and coordinator of the AVATT.

Under the AVATT structure, AU Member States are allocated vaccines according to the size of their populations for purchase through a pooled procurement mechanism. These vaccines complement the vaccines offered through the COVAX Facility, which has set out to deliver vaccines for up to 30 per cent of participating countries’ populations, to enable the AU Member States to reach the continental target.

Looking ahead, Ms. Vera Songwe, United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic for Africa (ECA), recalled that the pandemic served to expose vulnerabilities already existing in Africa’s health systems which were well documented in the ECA’s Health and Economic Growth in Africa (HEGA) report in 2019, Environews reports.

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