France to send 10 million anti-Covid vaccines to Africa over next 3 months

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France will provide the African continent with 10 million doses of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines over the next three months following a new partnership between France and the African Union.

The vaccines will be allocated and distributed in the framework of the AU's African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the partnership for equitable vaccine rollout known as Covax, according to a statement issued on Monday by the Elysée palace.

"The (Covid-19) pandemic can only be overcome through intense cooperation," Macron said in the statement, emphasising France's "solid partnership" with the AU.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa — who with Macron has strongly attacked unequal access to vaccines — welcomed the announcement as a "strong and welcome gesture of human solidarity and political cooperation at a time when the world most needs it."

Speaking after the G20 Compact with Africa conference in Berlin on Friday, Ramaphosa said Africa was at an "unfair disadvantage" in the race to get access to vaccines.

In March this year, South Africa sold one million AstraZeneca vaccines to other AU countries saying they were surplus to requirements.

However trials had also shown that the AZ vaccine was less effective in protecting against the South African variant dominant in the country at the time.

Enough for 400 million people

AVAT is a means of enabling group purchases of vaccines by AU members to help them meet at least 50 percent of their needs. Covax aims to help countries meet the shortfall through donations.

The statement by Macron's office said that enough jabs had now been purchased through AVAT to enable vaccination of 400 million people in Africa — a third of the continent's population — by September 2022, at a cost of three billion dollars.

In August the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a moratorium on giving third doses of anti-Covid-19 vaccines until at least the end of September, to allow at least 10 percent of the population of every country to be vaccinated.

So far, low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply.

300,000 for Congo

The WHO said on Monday that the Republic of Congo has received more than 300,000 vaccines doses from the United States, its first under Covax.

The donation amounts to 302,400 jabs of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the agency's African branch said on Twitter.

Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, began vaccinations in April using the Chinese formula Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik.

But uptake of these vaccines has been very low, and vaccine hesitancy is widespread. As of mid-August, less than two percent of Congo's eligible population had been inoculated.

On August 15, President Denis Sassou Nguesso issued an appeal for the public to get vaccinated, saying collective immunity was "the only path to safety" in the fight against the pandemic.

(with AFP)

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