Africa to start receiving 400 mln J&J COVID-19 vaccine doses next week
22 Jul 2021 – 13:07
Vials labelled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” and syringe are seen in front of displayed Johnson&Johnson logo in this illustration taken, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
NAIROBI: Africa, battling a severe third wave of COVID-19 infections, will start to receive the first batch of 400 million doses of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson next week, the African Union’s special envoy on COVID said on Thursday.
Only about 60 million doses have been administered among a total population of 1.3 billion so far on the 55-nation continent.
J&J doses will be used to immunise half of the estimated 800 million people in need of the vaccine on the continent, Strive Masiyiwa, who is also coordinator of the AU task force on vaccine acquisition, told an online news conference.
Around 6 million doses will be delivered to 27 nations that have paid their share through the end of August, Masiyiwa said, with another 18 finalising loans from the World Bank and other global lenders before they make payment.
Deliveries will rise to an average of 10 million a month from September, increasing to 20 million in January until the order is fulfilled by September next year, he added.
The balance of the vaccine requirements for the continent will come from COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing scheme for poorer nations, as well as bilateral donations from developed nations like the United States, Masiyiwa said.
J&J, whose vaccine is administered through a single shot, will ship the doses from a facility in South Africa through its partnership with Aspen Pharmacare, the special envoy said.
Masiyiwa called on pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines in Africa under licensing arrangements, not under contract manufacturing, which critics say prevents countries having vaccine independence.
“We want to be treated the same way as they produce in India,” he said.
People look at newspapers without adhering to the rules of social distancing despite the confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus in Tanzania.
Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP
Tanzania’s government said it is gearing up to roll out vaccinations against Covid-19 soon.
The health minister added that the government was also banning all “unnecessary gatherings” to prevent the spread of the virus.
Africa CDC said that Tanzania, Eritrea and Burundi were the only countries on the continent yet to begin vaccinating their citizens against Covid-19.
Tanzania’s government said it is gearing up to roll out vaccinations against Covid-19 soon, in a shift from the policies of the country’s former Covid-sceptic leader.
Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said late on Thursday the government was also banning all “unnecessary gatherings” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Tanzania’s late leader John Magufuli had downplayed the gravity of the pandemic and shunned masks for the healing power of prayer, even as neighbouring countries shut their borders and imposed curfews and lockdowns.
The government stopped releasing Covid-19 data in April 2020, with Magufuli saying that issuing the figures was scaring people and describing vaccines as “dangerous”.
But since Magufuli’s death in March, his successor Samia Suluhu Hassan has taken a different approach, creating an expert taskforce to advise her government about how to best proceed with managing the pandemic.
“This third wave is already in the country and there is nothing to hide,” Hassan said earlier this month, urging Tanzanians to follow health guidelines such as wearing masks and washing hands.
Gwajima, who under Magufuli promoted a vegetable smoothie and other purported natural cures to ward off Covid, said vaccines would start being administered soon for free to those who want them, but did not specify a date.
“I call upon all citizens to get prepared for vaccination,” she said.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Thursday that Tanzania, Eritrea and Burundi were the only countries on the continent yet to begin vaccinating their citizens against Covid-19.
But the country of 58 million had recently submitted its application to join the global Covax vaccine-sharing initiative, and another programme to acquire jabs under the African Union.
“It is now fair to say we have seen a significant shift in Tanzania’s position,” said John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC.
Gwajima said Tanzania had 682 Covid patients as of 21 July. When the government stopped releasing the figures, it had reported 509 cases and 16 deaths.
It was not immediately clear which vaccine Tanzania would be using.
The government says Magufuli, nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style, died of a heart condition after a mysterious three-week absence.
But his political opponents insist he had coronavirus.
Ministry of Health (MoH) says the country is expected to receive 1 345 600 doses of assorted Covid-19 vaccines between now and September end with delivery of the first consignment of 192 000 doses set for Saturday.
In an interview on Thursday, MoH Principal Secretary (PS) Dr Charles Mwansambo said the 192 000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine failed to arrive last Thursday.
He said: “As a ministry we have played our part in putting in place strategies to make sure that people should have access to vaccines.”
Mwansambo said the 192 000 doses will arrive through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe and were secured through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access or Covax.
Covax is a global initiative intended to secure equitable access to vaccines and is led by the World Health Organisation and supported by partners such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines (Gavi) and Immunisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) and Unicef.
Mwansambo said the country will also receive an additional 119 200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine before July end, while 302 400 doses of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine will follow within two weeks thereafter.
He said the J&J vaccines will comprise two separate consignments of 165 600 and 136 800 doses.
The PS said another 360 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive either August end or early September.
“The last consignment will comprise 372 000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine which will arrive before September end,” he said.
Malawi first received 360 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India on March 5 this year.
Another batch of 50 000 doses from India arrived in April and 102 000 doses from African Union (AU) bringing the total number of doses to 512 000.
However, due to low turnout of people for the vaccination exercise some 19 610 doses expired on April 13 and were incinerated on May 19 at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe.
Mwansambo said this time around government has stepped up efforts to raise awareness of the vaccine so that large numbers of people get vaccinated.
He said: “The Ministry of Information has also managed to engage Nice [National Initiative for Civic Education] Trust who are engaging communities and we hope no doses will expire this time around.”
Currently, the country has no Covid-19 vaccines after they run out of stock mid last month.
At the time, only 43 165 people had received the second jab while 385 242 people had received the first jab.
In a separate interview on Thursday, epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala said there will be need for rational distribution of the vaccines to achieve the maximum possible benefit.
He said potential challenges of the vaccination exercise include corruption and young people in many cities getting jabs ahead of the most vulnerable sections of the population.
Said Divala: “These challenges pose a huge threat and should be under serious consideration ahead of commencement.”
Health and Rights Education Programme executive director Maziko Matemba agreed with Divala saying there will be need for proper allocations of the vaccines in areas where they are needed most.
Malawi targets to vaccinate 11 million or 60 percent of the country’s critical population with the Covax Facility providing vaccines for 3.8 million people.
Government said it would mobilise seven million doses to hit at least 11 million of the population to achieve herd immunity.
The Fund for African Private Sector Assistance launched its Africa Franchise Accelerator Project in Tanzania. The project will promote and model franchising as part of a national enterprise development strategy to stimulate economic integration, job creation, skills transfer and wealth creation.
FAPA, a multi-donor trust fund that finances technical assistance to advance the African Development Bank’s private sector development strategy, provided a $799,800 grant for the project.
The grant will support technical assistance to the Franchise Association of Tanzania to boost the transformation of 90 indigenous small and medium enterprises and 10 aggregated micro operators into franchise brands and sustain a thriving franchise system.
“This project offers a timely boost to Tanzania’s micro enterprises, which will gain access to growth-fueling intellectual property and an established brand name. Success here will also inform initiatives to scale up the franchising model across Africa,” said Omowunmi Jonah, task manager of AFRAP Project.
Franchising is a business arrangement in which an entrepreneur or small company—the franchisee— gains access to the brand power, operational systems and intellectual property of a more established entity, or franchisor, to conduct business.
The project is expected to diversify the economy by strengthening the competitiveness of Tanzania’s SMEs, which form a sizable proportion of the economy, as in most African countries.
Representatives of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation attended the launch event held in Dar es Salaam on 9 July.
FAPA, managed by the African Development Bank with support from the Governments of Japan and Austria, has provided over $66 million in financing to 82 projects in over 38 African countries. The Fund’s portfolio includes regional and national projects to improve the business environment, strengthen financial systems, build private sector infrastructure, and promote trade and the development of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Force (Avat) has secured a donation of several hundred million doses of Covid-19 drugs from the United States, 25-million of which will begin to be rolled out by the end of this week, US ambassador Jessye Lapenn told a weekly briefing run by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
The initial allocation was planned in conjunction with Avat, Africa CDC, the African Union and governments. The allocations were based on countries’ current vaccination programmes and levels of vulnerability, Lapenn said.
The US deal is not the only one made by Avat, which was established by the African Union specifically for the acquisition of vaccines so that the continent can reach a target of 400-million vaccinations by the end of September next year.
Johnson & Johnson already “finish and fill” the vaccine on the African continent through the Aspen facility, and African countries have negotiated and paid for 30% of the target vaccine doses from the company.
Avat coordinator Strive Masiyawa said negotiations with European countries had also been successful, with an agreement to donate and ship vaccine components to the Aspen facility so that it could fill-finish the vaccines. This is as opposed to donating completed vaccines, which is not always ideal because many countries don’t have adequate facilities for long-term storage. Africa’s capacity to manufacture vaccines will make up for this obstacle.
The United Nations Children’s Fund is acting as a distributor for vaccine doses for the African Union. Africa CDC director Dr John Nkengasong said the organisation, a public health agency for the continent, wanted to see more testing for Covid-19.
“The foundation for fighting any disease is good testing, and we have to test at scale all the time. We are not yet there, but we are very encouraged with the progress,” he said.
Masiyawa said many African countries had placed orders and partially or fully paid for more than the target of 400-million doses.
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa: A South African pharmaceutical company will manufacture the Pfizer- BioNTech Covid vaccine for distribution in Africa.
The South African biopharmaceutical manufacturer Biovac reached agreement to produce the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for distribution in Africa.
The continent of Africa has, to date, inoculated a little more than 3 percent of its population with at least one shot.
The Cape Town-based Biovac is to distribute the Covid vaccinations exclusively to the African Union’s 55 member states once it is operational in 2022.
Officials have set a goal of manufacturing over 100 million doses annually.
As a first step, Pfizer-BioNTech will “begin immediately” transferring technical knowledge to Biovac, as well as participate in on-site development and the installation of equipment.
“From day one, our goal has been to provide fair and equitable access of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to everyone, everywhere,” Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, said in a statement. “Our latest collaboration with Biovac is a shining example of the tireless work being done, in this instance to benefit Africa.”
John Nkengasong, the director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, praised the deal between Pfizer-BioNTech and Biovac in a statement to CNN as “great and welcome news that must be celebrated in the context of this pandemic as every action counts,” according to Reuters.
WHITE HOUSE – As Pakistan deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, the Biden administration is sending 3 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine Friday, set to arrive in the country Sunday.
The doses, sent through COVAX, the United Nations vaccine-sharing mechanism, are in addition to the 2.5 million doses of Moderna already donated to Pakistan, a White House official told VOA.
Pakistan’s national vaccination campaign has largely relied on Chinese vaccines, but the U.S. donations are helping officials overcome critical shortages of Western-developed anti-coronavirus shots.
Pakistani expatriate workers are required to receive European or U.S. vaccines so they can resume working abroad, where governments have not yet approved Chinese vaccines.
White House officials said the administration is “proud to be able to deliver these safe and effective vaccines” to Pakistanis.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favors or extract concessions. Our vaccines do not come with strings attached. We are doing this with the singular objective of saving lives,” the officials stressed.
Pakistan hailed the White House announcement, saying it “deeply appreciates” the shipment of 3 million doses of Moderna.
“These vaccines will give boost to ongoing vaccination drive in Pakistan,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told VOA.
“This considerate gesture is part of the continued assistance that the U.S. has provided to Pakistan to support our COVID relief and prevention efforts. We look forward to our continued cooperation with the U.S. in our fight against the pandemic,” Chaudhri said.
Washington already has delivered nearly $50 million in COVID assistance to Islamabad to help the country combat the disease.
The coronavirus situation in Pakistan, a country of about 220 million, remains largely under control.
Pakistan government data show the country currently has more than a million cases, more than 53,600 of them active. The country has had almost 23,000 COVID-19-related deaths and is dealing with rampant infections from the delta variant.
Wednesday, Karachi University’s National Institute of Virology said the delta variant – first discovered in neighboring India — now accounts for 100% of cases in the country’s largest city, Karachi.
According to Pakistan’s Health Ministry, 24.5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered. The government plans to inoculate 70% of about 100 million Pakistanis deemed eligible for COVID-19 vaccine.
Pakistan: Daily update on #vaccine doses administered
— Ministry of National Health Services, Pakistan (@nhsrcofficial) July 20, 2021
The White House official said that the administration has so far distributed close to 80 million doses to countries in need.
Aside from Pakistan, countries that have received vaccine donations from the Biden administration include South Korea, Mexico, Canada, Taiwan, Brazil, Honduras, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Malaysia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, Indonesia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bhutan, Moldova, Nepal, Costa Rica, Haiti, Fiji, Laos, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.
In addition to a $2 billion donation to COVAX, the administration has pledged to purchase 500 million Pfizer vaccines and distribute them through the year to the African Union and 92 low- and lower middle-income countries that are members of COVAX.
Still, COVAX is struggling to get enough doses to reach its vaccination goals. According to July 15 calculations by Doctors Without Borders — also known as MSF, the abbreviation of its French name, Medecins Sans Frontieres — Pfizer has allocated only 11% of its vaccine deliveries to date to low- and middle-income countries directly or through COVAX, and Moderna has allocated only 0.3%.
The organization is urging the Biden administration to pressure Pfizer and Moderna to share mRNA vaccine technology with producers in low- and middle-income countries so more vaccines can be made in more places across the world.
“The longer people everywhere remain completely unvaccinated, the more chances there will be for new variants to take hold and set back the global response,” Dr. Carrie Teicher, MSF-USA director of programs, said in a statement.
Israeli ambassador presents credentials to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, at bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.
After nearly 20 years of diplomatic efforts, Israel has attained observer status at the African Union (AU).
Making the move official, Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad Aleli Admasu on Thursday presented his credentials to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, at the bloc’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
“This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations,” Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that noted that Israel currently has relations with 46 African countries.
Israel previously held observer status at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), but was long thwarted in its attempts to get it back after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU.
“This corrects the anomaly that has existed for almost two decades and is an important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations,” said the foreign ministry’s statement.
The formal establishment of Israel’s observer status with the AU will enable stronger cooperation between the two parties on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent, it added.
In a separate statement, Faki stressed the AU’s position over the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reiterating the bloc’s stance that a two-state solution was ”necessary for a peaceful co-existence”.
“[Faki] emphasised that the path towards long lasting peace and stability requires that the peace process and the solutions sought must not only be acceptable, but must guarantee the rights of all parties,” read the AU’s statement.
In May, Faki condemned Israel when its forces bombarded the besieged Gaza Strip for 11 days, as well as Israeli security forces’ attacks at the Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third-holiest site located in occupied East Jerusalem – saying the Israeli army was acting “in stark violation of international law”.
Pro-Palestine language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.
Faki used last year’s summit to denounce then-US President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East, drawing applause in the AU’s main hall when he said it “trampled on the rights of the Palestinian people”.
Palestine already has observer status at the AU, and Israeli diplomats have criticised recent AU statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ebba Kalondo, Faki’s spokeswoman, said there are more than 70 non-African embassies and non-governmental organisations currently accredited to the AU.
Some experts argue that the timeline for manufacturing Pfizer vaccines locally, may be a bit too agressive. (Photo: Freepik)
A partnership between Biovac and Pfizer-BioNTech will see locally-produced COVID-19 vaccines being distributed to African Union members from next year, but some say the target of manufacturing 100 million doses a year could be optimistic.
The locally manufactured Pfizer vaccine is expected to be distributed across the 55 African Union (AU) member states from the third quarter of 2022, with production set to ramp up to over 100 million doses a year.
This is according to Biovac media relations officer Michelle Viljoen, who spoke to Health-e News following the announcement of a partnership between Biovac and Pfizer-BioNTech. The partnership will see Biovac become the first vaccine manufacturer in Africa to produce the mRNA Pfizer vaccine.
An as-yet undisclosed number of employees will be appointed to work on technical transfer activities, including on-site development and equipment installation. This is set to commence immediately.
Various advocacy groups have in the past year called for COVID-19 related pharmaceutical and technology manufacturers to share their skills and know-how with local manufacturers through patent waivers.
This sentiment gathered momentum as high-income countries bought and hoarded the bulk of available vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPEs), leaving middle- to low-income countries to scramble for leftovers, widening the already existing gap that prevents the equitable sharing of resources.
Viljoen said that the calls for patent waivers were not behind the formation of their partnership with Pfizer-BioNTech. Rather, it is an already-existing partnership with Pfizer, through the pneumo-conjugate vaccine against Streptococcus pneumonia, that is behind the vaccine technology and skills-sharing move.
Pfizer vaccine: Bilateral talks
“Biovac has been holding these discussions on a bilateral basis between itself and Pfizer/BioNTech. This was against the backdrop of an existing partnership that we have had with Pfizer since 2015,” said Viljoen.
However, one expert has told Health-e News that it was hard to tell whether Biovac’s target of delivering the locally manufactured vaccines in the third quarter of 2022 was a realistic timeline.
“It is an extremely aggressive timeline, especially given the issues related to COVID-19 and social unrest that may detract from progress. They may have a chance of reaching it if local capacity and capabilities are already very advanced and capable of large-scale production of complex biological molecules,” said public health and health technology expert at global health advisory BroadReach Group Dr Ernest Darkor.
“However, without knowing what our current starting baseline is in South Africa, it is hard for me to give a specific prediction.”
Despite this, Darkor added that the announcement is great news for the country and the continent as a whole, as it represents a critical step towards Africa acquiring world-leading biotechnological capabilities that will serve us well in the long term.
However, it is important to manage public expectations in terms of what the partnership means. Darkor explained that establishing largescale affordable local manufacturing was a complex and involved process that may take a very long time, and local manufacturing was not a silver bullet to solving the current vaccine supply crisis. The cost associated with such large-scale production will also play a crucial role in determining whether the vaccines will be affordable for consumers.
“Setting up new advanced manufacturing capabilities and achieving largescale production is a very expensive undertaking in the short to medium term and, if this cost is passed on to consumers, it means that our vaccines may be significantly more expensive than those available from countries that have had the largescale capacity in place for many decades. If we end up with very expensive versions of the same vaccines, no one in Africa will buy them from us and the initiative will not be financially viable,” he explained.
Government would also need to improve health service delivery, health education and improve the skills and capabilities of the healthcare workforce.
“The announcement gives us a further imperative to do what is necessary to fix our health systems so we do not waste the massive investments that are about to be made. A big part of fixing our health systems will involve the appropriate use of data and digital technologies that can help us to effectively address many of our longstanding challenges.
“These include a lack of health education of the general population, rural areas lacking access to services, health systems lacking knowledge about how to most effectively deploy their scarce resources and health workforces who lack the skills or capabilities required to provide quality services,” said Darkor.
The vaccine manufacturing facility is expected to be brought into the Pfizer-BioNTech supply chain by the end of 2021. – Health-e News