The African Union (AU) is set to receive an additional 10 million doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines from France in the next three months.
This comes after a new partnership between France and the AU.
The doses will be allocated and distributed in the framework of the AU's African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and Covax, a statement issued by President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Monday.
France said enough jabs had now been purchased through AVAT to enable vaccination of 400 million people in Africa which is a third of the continent's population by September 2022, at a cost of $3 billion.
“The donation by the French Republic of 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to the African continent is a clear and welcome demonstration of human solidarity and political cooperation at a time the world needs this most.
"A safer and healthier Africa is a prerequisite for a safer and healthier world. I commend President Macron and the government and people of France for this important contribution to our continent’s fight against illness and against the unfortunate and avoidable reality of unequal access to vaccines in many regions of the world, including Africa,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in response to the announcement.
Together with the French president, the two leaders criticised unequal access to vaccines.
The AVAT initiative was set up as a pooled procurement mechanism for the AU members to be able to buy enough vaccines for at least 50 per cent of their needs and works closely with the Covax.
The AU further disclosed that President Macron has met severally with AU leadership and travelled to South Africa where the French development agency Proparco is helping to expand Africa’s largest vaccine manufacturing facility.
France will also contribute to the world health organization (WHO) supported Hub, which will enable mRNA vaccines technology transfer to the African continent.
“The solution to the pandemic will only come from strong cooperation, between multilateral, regional and national actors.
Based on our solid partnership with the African Union, I want us to build together on the expertise and the political legitimacy of African leaders.
Thus 10 million doses of Astra Zeneca and Pfizer vaccines will be donated by the French people to the African Union, who will decide on their allocation, in coordination with COVAX. This demonstrates my will, as President of France, to stand shoulder to shoulder with African people and face the pandemic together,” President Macron said.
Earlier this month, WHO asked wealthy countries to temporarily halt the use of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots as poorer countries struggle to access the first dose.
This came after in May this year, the global health body asked rich countries as well as vaccine manufacturers to increase efforts to supply vaccine to low-income countries after setting the target of getting 10 per cent of people in all countries vaccinated by the end of September.
“At the current pace of distribution, that goal will not be achieved,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who is the WHO Director-General admits.
At a virtual official briefing, Dr Tedros said that countries should hold off on starting to give booster doses until at least the end of September though the global health body might extend the call if vaccine doses available to developing countries do not increase to adequate levels.
He added that the aim of the moratorium is to get enough vaccine supply into the Covax facility.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot and we should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccine using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected,” Dr Tedros cautioned.