NIGERIA and 54 other African countries are to benefit from the donation of 220m doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine after the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) signed a supply agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica.
Under the programme due to be introduced by the end of 2022, some 35m doses are to be delivered by the end of this year. This agreement, between Unicef and Janssen Pharmaceutica will help implement the Advance Purchase Commitment (APC) signed between the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (Avat) and Janssen last March.
That agreement secured an option to order another 180m doses, bringing the maximum access up to a total of 400m doses by the end of 2022. The African Union (AU) established Avat in November 2020 to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to the African continent, with a goal of vaccinating 60% of the population of member-states.
Under the plan, the African Export-Import Bank and Avat have signed a cooperation agreement on behalf of the AU for the development of an APC framework to support member-states access to Covid-19 vaccines. Unicef will procure and deliver Covid-19 vaccines on behalf of the Avat initiative.
Other partners include the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the World Bank, while multiple vaccines are anticipated to be part of the initiative’s portfolio, Janssen’s single-dose vaccine is the first to be included. Unicef said it stands ready to facilitate the procurement, transport and delivery of vaccines as soon as they become available and AU member-states are ready to receive them.
Henrietta Fore, the Unicef executive director, said: “African countries must have affordable and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible. Vaccine access has been unequal and unfair, with less than 1% of the population of the African continent currently vaccinated against Covid-19 and this cannot continue.
“Unicef, with its long history of delivering vaccines all around the world, is supporting global Covid-19 vaccination efforts through Avat, Covax and other channels to maximise supply and access to vaccines. Drawing upon decades of experience as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world as it does annually for routine immunization, Unicef is acting as a procurement and logistics agency on behalf of the Avat partnership.”
Janssen’s Covid-19 vaccine received a World Health Organisation Emergency Use Listing on 12 March and is relying on a global supply network to produce the vaccine. Deliveries of the vaccine are expected to begin later in the third quarter of 2021, with allocations to be determined by the Africa CDC.