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Fearing Africa Will be Left Behind, AU Opens Talks With Russia and China to Secure C19 Vaccine Supplies

A screen shows a coronavirus vaccine at a press conference during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. WANG ZHAO / AFP

The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said last week that his organization, together with the African Union, have started talks with both Chinese and Russian suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure the continent will receive sufficient supplies when they become available.

There’s mounting concern, both within the AU and among national governments, that African states will either be priced out of the market or placed at the end of the list of recipients for a future COVID-19 vaccine. 

While most African countries will qualify to receive vaccine supplies from the WHO’s Covax alliance, that won’t be enough to cover the entire population as Covax only provides for up to 20% of a country’s population. So, Dr. Nkengasong is reaching out to the Russians, Chinese, and others to make up the difference. He said he’s agnostic as to where the vaccines come from: “We are not limiting ourselves to any particular partner. As a continent of 1.2 billion people, we are willing to work with any partner who adheres to our strategic plan for vaccine development and access in Africa.”

Headlines: Africa’s Scramble to Secure COVID-19 Vaccines

  • SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University said experience suggested the vaccine would come late to Africa, as shown during the H1N1 influenza pandemic when promised vaccines to lower-income countries were never delivered in a timely way. (READ MORE)
  • NEWS24: South Africans remain in the dark over the government’s strategy and potential funding mechanisms to secure millions of doses for COVID-19 vaccines. Both the Presidency and the health department have been urged to provide more details about efforts to secure access to vaccines when one of the numerous candidate vaccines are proven to be effective and safe. (READ MORE: SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED)
  • SOUTHERN TIMES: Social and political activist Graça Machel this week told Lusa that Africa must “try to counter the selfish tendency of developed countries” that could lead to vaccine hoarding and overpricing. “We know that the most developed countries are now working furiously to acquire most of the doses of vaccines that are being proven effective and are thinking of their countries pure and simple,” said Ms. Machel, who is president of the Community Development Foundation, a non-governmental organization in Mozambique. (READ MORE)
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