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UNICEF, partners to supply 220m COVID-19 vaccines for AU countries

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(Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is to partner Janssen Pharmaceutical NV to supply 220 million doses of the J&J single-dose COVID-19 vaccines to 55-member African Union (AU) countries by the end of 2022.

In a statement by UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, in Maiduguri yesterday, she disclosed that 35 million doses of vaccines are to be delivered by December this year.

“The agreement between UNICEF and Janssen Pharmaceutical NV will help implement the Advance Purchase Commitment (APC) signed between the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and Janssen last March,” she said.

She noted that the agreement was to secure an option to order another 180 million doses, bringing the maximum access to a total of 400 million doses by December, 2022.

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“Only together can we bring the suffering to an end,” she declared. “The AU established AVAT in November, 2020 to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the African countries,” she said, adding that the goal was to vaccinate 60 per cent of each AU country’s population.

She disclosed that under the plan, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and AVAT have signed a cooperation agreement on behalf of the AU for the development of an Advance Procurement Commitment (APC) Framework to support member states’ access to COVID-19 vaccines.

On the part of UNICEF, she said: “We’ll procure and deliver COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the AVAT initiative.”

She listed other partners to include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the World Bank. She noted that while multiple vaccines are anticipated to be part of the initiative’s portfolio, Janssen’s single-dose vaccine is the first to be included.

“African countries must have affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible,” she said, lamenting that vaccine access has been unequal and unfair, as only less than one percent of the population of African continent is currently vaccinated against COVID-19.

Continuing, she said, “UNICEF, with its long history of delivering vaccines all around the world, is supporting global COVID-19 vaccinations efforts through AVAT, COVAX, and other channels to maximize supply and access to vaccines.”

She said that the global health organisation stands ready to facilitate the procurement, transport and delivery of vaccines as soon as they become available.

Besides, she noted that vaccinating the world against COVID-19, as the virus continues to spread and mutate, is one of the largest and most complex collective health undertakings the world has ever seen, and we need all hands on deck.

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