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400m Africans covered as AU attracts $12b World Bank backing for vaccination

In a boost to the African Union’s target to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022, the World Bank and the AU have joined efforts to back countries to purchase and deploy vaccines for up to 400 million people across Africa.

The World Bank at a meeting with African finance ministers announced it will provide for the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) to secure doses sufficient the targeted group.

For a continent that has been at the tail end of vaccination train globally, the World Bank’s $12 billion financing could offset cost of coverage for a quarter of the continent’s 1.2 billion population.

Only about two percent of the doses administered worldwide have been in Africa according to the World Health Organisation data.

David Malpass, World Bank Group President playing up the importance of working together said Covid-19 vaccine doses can expedite doses to countries and support deployment.

“Countries urgently need more pathways for acquiring vaccines that match their needs and have early delivery schedules,” Malpass said.

The World Bank has already approved operations to support vaccine roll out in 36 countries. By June end, the Bank expects to have scaled up vaccination to about 50 countries, two thirds of which are in Africa.

“As a result of this joint initiative between the World Bank and African institutions such as the Africa Import Export Bank and the Africa Centre for Disease Control, we now have the capacity to vaccinate at least 400 million people, or 30 percent of our population of 1.3 billion,” Strive Masiyiwa, African Union Special Envoy and coordinator of the AVATT.

The World Bank also has strong partnerships with regional institutions such as the Africa Center for Disease Control, West African Health Organization, and the African Union Commission to enhance cross-border collaboration on disease surveillance, preparedness and response.

The World Bank-financed COVID-19 vaccine operations allow countries to purchase vaccines through COVAX, through regional initiatives, and through bilateral procurement from manufacturers.

As such, the Bank has been working closely with AVATT to see that countries in Africa can use World Bank financing to purchase COVID-19 doses through the AVATT initiative as well.

The goal of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which is an initiative of the African Union Commission, Africa CDC, Afreximbank, the AU Special Envoys for COVID-19, and UNECA, is to provide the continent with sufficient and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines.

It has already successfully negotiated 220 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for use by African countries, with an option for 180 million more based on demand.

AVATT works and coordinates closely with the African Ministers of Finance in the efforts towards realizing herd immunity for full reopening of the continent’s economies.

World Bank includes technical assistance in areas of expanding storage and building cold chain, developing tracking systems to make sure vaccines reach people, training health workers and supporting citizen and community engagement to address vaccine hesitancy.

Beyond the current emergency, building resilient health systems in Africa that can respond to future pandemics will be key.

In addition, the IFC, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, is leading a consortium to support Africa’s regional vaccine production. Work toward investments in South Africa, Senegal, and Rwanda is at an advanced stage.

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