Drug maker Johnson & Johnson announced this week that they had agreed to supply up to 400 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union (AU). The organization said the shots would arrive from the third quarter of 2021. The decision was reached just days after the continent started struggling to get shots into arms and tame infections.
African Union to receive yet another Shipment of Vaccines
Details of the agreement revealed that the J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceutical NV had entered into a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT). Under the terms of the deal, the J&J organization would deliver 220 million doses of its single-dose vaccine to AVAT. Furthermore, the agreement said that AVAT could order an additional 180 million doses of the vaccine through 2022.
The African continent aims to reach its target of vaccinating at least 750 million people, or 60% of the population, before the year ends. But so far, many countries out of the 55 in the continent haven’t received any vaccines. The virus continues to spread in such countries leading to the deaths of almost 121,000 people. Additionally, the infections have increased to 4.18 million more. Other nations are struggling to contain an even more-infectious variant identified in South Africa.
All this has been happening as the COVAX initiative tasked with supplying poorer countries with vaccines is experiencing delays in deliveries of the AstraZeneca shots. Because of this, the African continent is far behind wealthy nations like the United States, Britain, and Israel in its vaccination rollout. So far, almost half of Britons have received their first doses of vaccines. In a nation like South Africa on the other hand, only 0.4% of the population has received one dose.
Africa moving closer to achieving herd Immunity through Assistance
But the assistance of organizations such the Johnson & Johnson is helping poorer nations gain a fighting chance. Africa needs to immunize at least 60% of the population in order to get rid of the virus from the continent. Amid the delay in deliveries, the J&J agreement enables African countries to move towards achieving their target.
In a briefing, the African Centers of Disease Control and Prevention director, John Nkengasong, revealed most of the J&J supplies would be produced by Aspen Pharma in South Africa. But Nkengasong did not disclose the price per shot of the vaccines agreed on between J&J and the AU vaccine plan. But according to previous vaccine costs, experts expected the J&J to cost African countries $10 a dose.
Last month Europe approved the J&J single dose COVID-19 vaccine for use. Weeks later, Canada, Britain, and the United States also approved the shot for use in their countries. Since then, many of the countries in Africa have shown a strong preference for the J&J vaccine. Due to this, the AU made it a priority to include the J&J vaccine in their vaccine acquisition plan. In support of their mission, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) approved up to $2 billion in finance for countries to buy the shot via the AU.