The African Union has a commitment of $5 billion promised by the World Bank and other donors, out of the $12 billion that African countries need to access the coming Covid-19 vaccine.

This revelation was made at a teleconference meeting convened Tuesday evening following an announcement by global pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTec that their vaccine candidate was showing 90 per cent efficacy.  The firms are now pushing for emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration.

The meeting convened by President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa was meant to discuss Africa’s strategy for financing Covid-19 vaccines and to assess options for acquisitions of vaccines in Africa.

In a statement, Ramaphosa stressed that Africa should take appropriate measures, as part of the strategy, to secure timely access to Covid-19 vaccines. He noted that funding for this was expected to come from three sources, the COVAX Donor Initiative, the World Bank, direct donors, and African Import-Export Bank, which has committed to raising up to $5 billion only.

On his part, the Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat said Africa needs to vaccinate around 60 per cent of the population to arrest further transmission and death from Covid-19.

The vaccine

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said tests involving more than 40,000 people had provided results that were a “critical milestone” in the search for a vaccine.

An effective vaccine is seen as the best hope to break the cycle of deadly virus surges followed by severe restrictions across much of the world since Covid-19 first emerged in China late last year.

Tens of millions of people in Africa are living under lockdowns preventing them from leaving their homes, and millions of business owners are enduring forced closures.

“We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla said in a statement.

The drug, being developed jointly with German firm BioNTech, is one of more than 40 candidate vaccines, but no other has yet made similar claims about its effectiveness.

The companies said they could pass the final hurdles for a US rollout later this month, and could supply up to 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion next year.

Additional reporting by URN

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