The African Union has introduced it’s dropping plans to purchase extra doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine immediately from the Serum Institute of India and can as an alternative deal with securing additional vaccines from Johnson & Johnson.
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), mentioned the choice was not associated to current security issues over the AstraZeneca vaccine however “because we work very closely with COVAX,” the vaccine-sharing facility for the world’s poorest nations.
Addressing a digital news briefing from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia Thursday, Nkengasong defined the pivot to Johnson & Johnson was to guarantee, the “Indian Serum Institute was enabled to be able to supply doses to the COVAX mechanism.”
“It was just a clear understanding of how not to duplicate efforts with the Serum Institute, so that we complement each other rather than duplicate efforts,” he added.
Last week, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) signed an Advance Purchase Agreement with Johnson & Johnson for 220 million doses on behalf of the 55 member states of the African Union (AU).
Nkengasong mentioned he hoped the vaccines would “begin to be available at the beginning of the third quarter.”
The AU will now discover choices of securing a further 180 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he mentioned.
“Given that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single dose, that means we have the ability – if those vaccines are picked up by countries – to immunize 400 million people on the continent,” he mentioned.
The AU’s determination comes a day after EU regulator European Medicines Agency (EMA) discovered that there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and “very rare cases of blood clots.”
However Nkengasong mentioned, “this (AstraZeneca) vaccine continues to be safe. We will still recommend that the vaccines be used.” He additionally reiterated the findings of the EMA saying, “the recommendation still stands that the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweighs the risk of the unusual and rare side effects of the vaccine.”
Nkengasong confirmed that “a total 33.8 million vaccine doses have been acquired by Member States, with approximately 12.9 million doses administered” up to now.
He welcomed the news that “Seychelles and Mauritius have received enough COVID vaccine doses to reach 20% target vaccination benchmark, which was what the COVAX facility promised.”
“I think every little step and progress that we observe in the continent is good progress” and “it’s always good to highlight those success stories,” he added.