Most African countries likely to get their first Covid-19 vaccines for free

Most African countries likely to get their first Covid-19 vaccines for free

A global shift in policy could be a lifesaver as nations on the continent struggle with the rising costs of Covid-19, both in terms of lives and economies.

The majority of African countries could get enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to cover at least 20% of their populations for free – marking a major shift in international policy.

Countries in the Global North secured billions of doses in 2020, long before any Covid-19 jab had even been shown to work. To ensure poorer countries had a chance of accessing vaccines, the international vaccine public-private partnership Gavi spearheaded the creation of the Covax initiative. The programme is designed to pool participating countries’ purchasing power to negotiate vaccine stocks at better prices, especially the world’s poorest nations. 

Covax initially promised that vaccines would be free for poor countries, but in September Gavi’s board introduced required co-payments of up to US$2 per dose for poor countries. Exemptions to the policy would be on a case-by-case basis. 

Now, Covax has committed to providing initial doses for free if funding pans out.

Late Thursday, Covax partner, the World Health Organisation, announced that all 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in joining COVAX; and, notably, that lower and middle-income countries will access COVAX vaccines at no cost. 

Speaking to The Continent, a Gavi spokesperson confirmed that the organisation is fundraising to provide 1.3-billion vaccine doses free to poor countries. The deal would apply to all African countries except for eight, upper-middle-income nations that must pay for Covax jabs in full: Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles and South Africa.

“These fully subsidised donor-funded doses will jumpstart new COVID-19 vaccine introductions in…eligible economies, allowing early doses to be reserved to ensure that lower-income countries are not left behind,” Gavi told The Continent. “Whilst mindful of uncertainties on vaccine pricing, resource availability and manufacturing supply, Gavi aspires to cover at least 20% of the population of eligible economies with these donor-funded doses – thereby making a very real impact towards stopping the spread of the pandemic by end 2021.”

Once donor funding for COVID-19 vaccines doses is exhausted, poor countries will have the chance to purchase more quantities at a subsidised price. 

So far, Covax has secured two-billion vaccine doses and raised US$6-billion in donor funding. 

“We are not yet where we want to be, but I’m happy to say we are on track,” Gavi’s Managing Director of Country Programmes Thabani Maphosa told journalists late last week. “If we are successful in our fundraising, we could have access to even more doses, bringing the total available to probably 1.785-billion doses for [the world’s poorest’ countries] or 27% of the population.” 

“We are not yet where we want to be, but I’m happy to say we are on track,” Gavi’s Managing Director of Country Programmes Thabani Maphosa told journalists late last week. “If we are successful in our fundraising, we could have access to even more doses, bringing the total available to probably 1.785-billion doses for [the world’s poorest’ countries] or 27% of the population.” 

An version of this story was first published in the The Continent magazine, published in partnership with the Mail & Guardian.

Laura Lopez Gonzalez @ All Rights Reserved

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