The African Export-Import Bank (Afeximbank) is ready to raise up to US$5 billion to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for African countries, John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said.
Nkengasong said Africa needs to be proactive in the race to secure vaccines against the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 41 million people globally.
COVAX, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), will only be able to secure shots for less than 10% of the continent’s population of 1.29 billion, he said.
Western nations are spending billions to shore up supplies of potential vaccines. Last month the European Commission reached agreements with the drugmakers AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GSK to buy up to 700 million doses.
COVAX, designed to lower prices and discourage national governments from hoarding COVID-19 vaccines, aims to help buy and fairly distribute at least two billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021.
“We are discussing with Afreximbank, and they … say, ‘Look, we are ready to raise up to about $5 billion to support additional doses of vaccines,’” Nkengasong told Reuters. He said the money could be poured into COVAX or spent to negotiate directly with manufacturers.
Afreximbank did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.
The WHO said last month it wants to secure an initial 230 million doses of any COVID-19 vaccine for Africa, but Nkengasong warned that accounting for two shots per person and leakages in distribution, this would cover only 8-9% of Africa’s population, far short of the 40-60% needed for immunity.
Nkengasong said that should the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University prove successful, it will be of particular interest to African countries. The CDC has been in talks with the Serum Institute of India about manufacturing up to 200 million doses of this potential drug, he said.