Zimbabwe should soon start receiving initial shipments of its 5 million
share of the 400 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine secured
for Africa by the African Union (AU), the African Vaccine Acquisition
Trust (AVAT) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency
The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe last month approved the
emergency use of Johnson and Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first live
vaccine approved, in addition to the previously approved inert vaccines
from China, India and Russia.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is the main single-shot vaccine available,
so the 5 million doses eventually coming Zimbabwe’s way will be enough for
5 million people.
Zimbabwe has already paid US$7,5 million towards its share of the AU
facility, and will be able to borrow the remainder, so it can start
benefiting when the vaccines bought through that facility are being
distributed from this month.
The AU facility sees increasing monthly shipments totalling 50 million
doses for the continent by the end of the year and at least 25 million
doses a month from January.
Some of the final stages in the manufacturing process are being done in
South Africa, the first time any work on Covid-19 vaccines has been done
on the continent.
South African President and African Union (AU) Covid-19 Champion,
President Cyril Ramaphosa, has now announced that the monthly shipments of
vaccines to member states started yesterday.
“This is a momentous step forward in Africa’s efforts to safeguard the
health and well-being of its people. By working together and by pooling
resources, African countries have been able to secure millions of vaccine
doses produced right here in Africa. This will provide impetus to the
fight against Covid-19 across the continent and will lay the basis for
Africa’s social and economic recovery,” he said.
After the initial shipments, consignments are expected to continue for a
total of 6,4 million doses shipped this month.
Monthly shipments will be continually increasing, with a target of
delivering almost 50 million doses by year end and with monthly deliveries
topping 25 million by January.
The AU-Unicef-AVAT partnership was put in place to help sort out the
critical problem for much of Africa, access and supply of vaccines.
While Zimbabwe has managed better than most to sort out a supply chain,
and is now rated at a developed country level when it comes to
procurement, this level is far from universal in Africa. But even Zimbabwe
will be relying on the AU facility for a significant percentage of its
requirements which is why it released the funding towards its share.
“We are building a platform for deeper collaboration that will pave the
way to a more robust African response to the pandemic and move the
continent towards recovery, leveraging the opportunities to strengthen
health systems and support the manufacturing sector for job creation,”
said Dr Vera Songwe, United Nations Under Secretary-General and executive
secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa.
African Union special envoy Mr Strive Masiyiwa, who has been instrumental
in securing the vaccines, said the coming on board of Unicef would assist
in thwarting a third wave of Covid-19 that has hit most of the continent.
“We are pleased to have Unicef as a strategic partner in the delivery of
these vaccines to our member states, as they are extremely experienced in
handling and managing vaccines, and a strong and well-established
relationship with all AU member states,” said Mr Masiyiwa, who is also the
Econet Group founder and chairman.
Unicef played a critical role almost four decades ago in pressing for
universal vaccination of all children against a range of dangerous
childhood infections and helped many countries establish the cold chains
and other infrastructure needed to get these vaccines to even the most
remote village children.
That infrastructure has proved invaluable to get the Covid-19 vaccines to
the same clinics.
Established by African leaders, AVAT has spearheaded African efforts on
fair equitable access and distribution of vaccines, negotiating vaccine
acquisition with pharmaceutical companies to at least 60 per cent of the
African population with safe and efficacious vaccines to achieve “herd
“Since the pandemic began, Africa Centres for Disease Control has worked
with Covax to ensure that African Union member states get fair access to
Covid-19 vaccines. At this critical moment where widespread vaccination is
more urgent than ever, we must do all to vaccinate at least 60 percent of
the African population by 2022,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director of
Africa Centres for Disease Control.
The procurement of these vaccine doses has been made possible with the
support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which provided a
US$2 billion guarantee to Johnson and Johnson on behalf of the AU member
The bank also made available direct financing to AU member states which
require funding to pay for the vaccines.
In April 2021, Afreximbank made a down payment of US$330 million to
Johnson and Johnson on behalf of the AU member states, as part of the
commitment under the agreement.
“As the financial and transaction advisers to AVAT on the Johnson &
Johnson Agreement, we are pleased to formally welcome Unicef to the
partnership and look forward to a fruitful collaboration for efficient
delivery of vaccines to African countries,” said Professor Benedict
Oramah, President of Afreximbank.
Access to vaccines is the surest way out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Emerging new variants suggest that global recovery will remain elusive if
Africa is left behind. Speed and scale in vaccine distribution are
imperative for economic recovery.
The AVAT and Unicef partnership will also work to increase procurement and
manufacturing on the continent as part of a broader strategy for
sustainable health systems and job creation in Africa.
The pandemic has highlighted Africa’s pharmaceutical manufacturing
vulnerabilities. Prior to the pandemic, the continent was only able to
manufacture less than two percent of the total medicines needed.
“Access to Covid-19 vaccines has been unjust and unfair, with people in
Africa bearing the brunt of this inequality. This cannot continue,” said
Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore.
“Unicef is a staunch partner of the African continent with a long history
of delivering vaccines everywhere they are needed. We are pleased to join
this partnership with the African Union and AVAT to maximise supply and
access to vaccines.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was selected for this first pooled
procurement for three reasons: first of all, as a single-shot vaccine, it
is easier and cheaper to administer; second, the vaccine has a long
shelf-life, at six months, and favourable storage conditions. Last but not
least, the vaccine is partly manufactured on the African continent, with
fill-finish activities taking place in South Africa