Zambia to receive 8.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines under AU initiative

By Lenganji Sikapizye

January 26, 2021

 Zambia has been allocated 8.7 million doses of the 270 million COVID-19 vaccines secured this month by the African Union (AU).

The number of doses may rise to 25 million by December 2021, according to His Excellency Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the AU. The initiative will allocate vaccine doses according to the size of each country’s population.

Mwaba said the initiative is being conducted by the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), a platform that has been created to ensure that up to 60 percent of Africa’s population is vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by the end of 2021. It has secured 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for distribution throughout the continent.

Kenya has ordered 24 million doses, which are due to arrive the second week of February, and Nigeria reportedly has ordered 10 million doses.

African countries will pay between $3 and $10 per vaccine dose to access the shots secured by the AU, according to a draft briefing on the plan prepared by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

“If member states have to buy individually, they have to wait until July 2022, but through this mechanism, we can access the vaccines by April 2021,” Mwamba said in a statement.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who serves as AU chair, said the vaccines secured by the AU will be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and through the Serum Institute of India.

The vaccines will require approval from the African Union Centers for Disease Control and further approval from local regulatory and other approval mechanisms. The Zambian government has said no COVID-19 vaccines will be administered to citizens without first undergoing efficacy and safety tests.

Zambia, with a population close to 18 million, has had 45,337 cases of COVID-19 cases and 639 fatalities.

Prof. Omu Anzala of the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Nairobi – Kenya estimates the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines will not reach Africa until after the first quarter of 2021. He is concerned logistical challenges will make distributing the vaccine across Africa difficult.

“The costs of the individual vial may not be a problem,” he told a virtual media briefing organized by the Africa Science Media Center (AfriSMC). “The problem may be distribution and administration.”

One key issue is how vaccines can adapt to Africa’s existing distribution frameworks, he said. For example, the freezers that can store some vaccines at the required -70-degree Celsius temperature are not common in Africa.

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