Covid-19
African Export-Import Bank president Benedict Oramah.

The African Union requires an additional $300 million (about Kes33 billion) in financing to vaccinate about 70 per cent of its population by next year to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19.

 Initially, the AU aimed to get 60 per cent of the population jabbed across Africa by next year.

However, African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) president Benedict Oramah said this goal might need to be raised to 70 per cent, which will require an additional $300 million in financing for doses.

The initial goal was calculated based on the circulation of Covid-19 before the emergence of the more transmissible delta variant, which has a relatively higher rate of reproduction.

The increased target falls in line with the goals of the World Health Organization to vaccinate 70 per cent of the global population by the mid of next year.

So far, about three per cent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.

“I will be working together with COVAX and other partners to make sure that the continent gets that 70 per cent,” said John Nkengasong, director at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The initial calculations of the required doses were based on the 60 per cent goal, which is equal to vaccinating about 780 million people.

Seth Berkley, chief executive officer at Gavi said COVAX expects to provide the African continent with enough doses to meet half of the 60 per cent goal by February next year, however, if the target is raised to 70 per cent, the program aims to supply the needed doses by March.

To make up for the rest of the 60 per cent goal, the AU signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson for up to 400 million doses of the one-shot vaccine for countries to purchase. Afreximbank provided $2 billion in funding earlier this year to secure these doses.

“Moving to 70 per cent will require an additional $300 million immediately to be able to achieve that,” Mr Oramah said.

The AU has not announced any additional vaccine purchasing deals for countries beyond the J&J agreement.

Strive Masiyiwa, special envoy for the AU, said export bans on ingredients for manufacturing vaccines are preventing the AU from buying more doses.

“We want to buy vaccines. We’re not asking for donations,” he said.

Preparing for booster shots would require an additional $500 million to $600 million in funding for African nations, that doesn’t include the logistical costs of getting the doses into arms, Mr Oramah added.

Mr Masiyiwa said countries need quick access to funding, adding that one of the key lessons learned from the pandemic is that “you can’t run around looking for money in the midst of a crisis.”

He called upon the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to take the reins on ensuring financing can be made available to countries quickly in the future.

“We strongly believe that the pledge architecture, where countries gather together and make pledges… has had its day. Let us now have a permanent structure,” Mr Masiyiwa said.

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