By Folasade Akpan
The World Bank Group and the African Union (AU) have entered a partnership to support the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative, to vaccinate up to 400 million people across Africa.
A statement issued by the bank in Washington D. C. on Monday said the duo would support with resources to allow countries to purchase and deploy the vaccines.
According to the statement, African Finance Ministers and the bank met on Monday to fast-track vaccine acquisition on the continent, to avoid a third wave.
It said that the extraordinary regional effort complements COVAX and comes at a time of rising COVID-19 cases in the region.
According to the statement, World Bank financing is available to support the purchase and deployment of doses secured by AVATT.
“The World Bank has 12 billion dollars in vaccine financing available to help countries purchase and distribute vaccines and address readiness issues.
“The bank has already approved operations to support vaccine roll- out in 36 countries and by end of June, it expects to be supporting vaccination efforts in 50 countries, two thirds of which are in Africa.
“The bank also has strong partnerships with regional institutions such as the Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC), West African Health Organisation, and the AU Commission, to enhance cross-border collaboration on disease surveillance, preparedness and response, “it said.
It added that 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 could use the bank’s financing to purchase COVID-19 doses through the AVATT initiative as well.
“The goal of AVATT, an initiative of the AUC, Africa CDC, Africa Import Export Bank (Afreximbank), the AU Special Envoys for COVID-19, and UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), is to provide the continent with sufficient and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines.”
It said it had already successfully negotiated 220 million doses of Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for use by African countries, with an option for 180 million more, based on demand.
The statement also said that AVATT works and coordinates closely with the African Ministers of Finance in the efforts towards realising herd immunity, for full reopening of the continent’s economies.
David Malpass, World Bank Group President, said that the bank was pleased to support African countries through the partnership with the AU, to quickly provide hundreds of millions of doses.
“Working together, we 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, “he said.
Strive Masiyiwa, AU Special Envoy and coordinator of AVATT, said that with the joint initiative between the institutions, Africa now has the capacity to vaccinate at least 400 million people, or 30 per cent of its population of 1.3 billion.
Vera Songwe, the Executive Secretary of the ECA, said that a key priority in the initiative was to make sure the purchase of vaccines translates into people getting vaccinated.
According to the statement, World Bank financing and technical assistance to countries is available to help countries to effectively deploy vaccines.
“This includes 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 could respond to future pandemics would be key, “the statement said.
It said that, in addition, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the bank’s private sector arm, was leading a consortium to support Africa’s regional vaccine production.
“Work toward investments in South Africa, Senegal, and Rwanda is at an advanced stage,” the statement said. (NAN)