Vaccine maker Moderna plans to provide the African Union (AU) with up to 110 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccines, in a deal partly arranged by the White House, Reuters reported.
The doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of the year, 35 million in the first quarter of 2022, and up to 60 million in the second quarter.
“This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately,” AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said.
“We urge other vaccine-producing countries to follow the lead of the US government and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines.”
White House’s deputy coordinator for COVID-19 response Natalie Quillian said the Biden administration is deferring delivery of 33 million doses it had bought from Moderna to give the AU its “spot in line” to make a purchase.
“We are grateful to have helped negotiate this encouraging step forward between Moderna and the African Union that will significantly expand access to vaccines on the continent in the near term,” Quillian said.
The AU plans to deliver 63 million vaccine doses by the end of the year to Africa; these will include Moderna doses along with J&J, as well as those donated by the Mastercard Foundation, Mr Masiyiwa said.
The announcement comes amidst severe global COVID-19 vaccine inequity, as vaccines slowly trickle into many African nations and high-income countries fail to quickly share what they’ve promised.
Members of the G-20 have pledged over 1.2 billion doses to COVAX, the international vaccine-sharing initiative, but have delivered only 150 million.
Only about five per cent of the African continent is fully vaccinated, with African nations only receiving about 252.5 million doses in total.
Despite these low figures, high-income countries are moving to provide third, booster shots, as well as vaccinating younger members of their populations.
Countries are also stockpiling unused doses, with 100 million doses expected to expire in the near future.
Further, Moderna said it was working to make it possible to fill doses of its COVID-19 vaccines in Africa by 2023 and has plans to build a manufacturing plant on the continent.
“This is the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement, referring to a Memorandum of Understanding to make up to 110 million doses for the AU.
Last month, the AU accused COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers of denying African countries a fair chance to buy vaccines and urged manufacturing countries, in particular India, to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.