Cairo, 5 September 2021 (ECA) - With the delivery of 158,400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Sudan on 4 September, and 525,600 doses to Egypt on 5 September, the Economic Commission for Africa has supplemented the distribution of 1,161,600 vaccine doses to North African countries in the last month, through the AVAT initiative.
This August, the first phase of the monthly shipment of vaccines acquired by the AU / African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) to member States saw the delivery of 4,536,000 doses to 27 countries across Africa. They included 787,200 doses for Egypt, 108,000 for Mauritania, 158,400 for Sudan and 108,000 for Tunisia.
While richer countries’ vaccination policies are currently allowing them to get close to achieving herd immunity which requires for 60 to 70 percent of the population to be vaccinated, Africa is being left far behind, with only 2.5 percent of its 1.3 billion population fully vaccinated and another 2.1% having received only one dose of vaccine so far.
Large disparities in vaccination rates also persist within the continent, with many countries set to miss the WHO global target of vaccinating at least 10 percent of their populations this September.
An initiative by the AU Member States driven by the African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa, Afreximbank, Africa CDC and multiple other partners, AVAT aims to support COVAX efforts by allowing African countries to jointly purchase 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million.
The J&J vaccine doses distributed across Africa have been partly manufactured within the continent at the Aspen Pharmacare facility of Gqeberha in South Africa (fill/finish process), in accordance with the ongoing, concerted effort by African countries to rally the world to support the TRIPS waiver for technology transfer and active pharmaceutical ingredients to develop the continent’s manufacturing capabilities.
Another initiative supported by ECA, the African Medical Supplies Procurement Platform (AMSP) has helped alleviate supply and logistical constraints by ensuring access to the Pandemic Portfolio Medicines to African Governments. To support vaccination operations, the AMSP has also launched a new category on vaccine accessories which will help member States procure products such as ultra-low temperature freezers, personal protection equipment, cotton wool rolls, syringes and needles.
Since the start of the pandemic, North African countries have made significant efforts to adapt and innovate through their national industries and research entities. Several governments including Egypt, Morocco and Algeria are currently focusing their efforts on the local production of vaccines, and have started or are about to start producing Sinovac, Sinopharm and Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines with the aim of protecting their populations and exporting vaccines to the rest of the region.
While the COVID-19 economic crisis could push up to half a billion Africans into extreme poverty this year, the continent could mitigate the crisis and help turn it into an opportunity by accelerating its structural transformation. According to ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe, Africa can create over 5 million additional jobs if more health commodities are manufactured on the continent.
North African countries can use the existing pharmaceutical industries as starting points for the development of a sub-regional value chain that would help safeguard national health while allowing the countries to diversify their export destinations. This would allow North African exporters to add the African market to their current EU and MENA buyers, while allowing for a gradual shift from generic drugs production towards higher added value, original drugs.
This topic will be at the heart of discussions at the upcoming Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts for North Africa (ICSOE 2021) and Expert group taking place online on 24 November 2021 under the theme “Enhancing Regional Integration in North Africa” and “Potential for Promoting Regional Value Chains in North Africa: Focus on the Pharmaceutical and Digital Finance Sectors”.
Economic Commission for Africa
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