African countries will have access to the COVID-19 vaccines from the end of January through the first quarter of 2021, said a special envoy of the African Union (AU) on Wednesday.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the AU special envoy on mobilizing international economic support for the continent’s fight against COVID-19, gave the assurance after a closed-door meeting with Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama in the capital city of Abuja.
“As long as one person has it(COVID-19) in the world, no one is safe. And that is why poorer countries, lower-middle-income countries like Nigeria, need to get it as quickly as possible,” said Okonjo-Iweala, who is also Nigeria’s candidate for the office of the director-general of the World Trade Organization.
The international initiative to get the COVID-19 vaccines distributed to developing and poorer countries in a quick and affordable manner involved the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the international community, she said.
A platform called the COVAX facility has been developed with 186 countries on board, she noted, saying that the parties interested in serving the poor countries include 92 countries, for which resources have been raised in an attempt to distribute the vaccines quickly.
She said the vaccines will initially be made available for frontline health workers, followed by some other target groups — older people, and those with underlying conditions.
“I think the COVAX facility can cover about 20 percent to 23 percent of the population by the end of next year,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
According to the AU envoy, Africans are blessed for not having the same incidence rate of COVID-19 as those of other continents. However, she warned African nations against complacency.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the African continent has reached 2,284,907 as of Wednesday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The continental disease control agency said in a statement that the death toll related to the pandemic stood at 54,503. A total of 1,961,471 people have recovered across the continent so far.