On July 28, the United States (US) announced a shipment of almost 10 million COVID-19 vaccines to Nigeria and South Africa, two of the countries hit hardest by COVID-19 on the African continent.
Officials confirmed that the US will be delivering 4 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Nigeria, and 5.66 million doses of the Pfizer jab to South Africa. According to Reuters, the South Africa shipment is the largest vaccine delivery from the US since it started sharing vaccines earlier this year.
"We are working to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people around the world as fast as possible," a White House official said, according to Reuters.
Including this latest shipment, the US will have donated 16.4 million vaccine doses to African countries. In total, this shipment also means that the US will have exceeded its commitment to donate 80 million vaccines to countries in need, including donations to Asia and Latin America, as pledged by President Joe Biden in May.
The vaccines can't be administered soon enough as Africa is currently experiencing a deadly third wave of COVID-19 infections and there aren't enough vaccines to go round. Despite the rise in cases, the continent has only been able to so far inoculate just 60 million people out of a population of 1.3 billion, largely due to a lack of supply.
Vaccine nationalism has had a huge role to play in Africa not having enough vaccines for its people, as wealthy nations rushed to hoard more than enough doses for their populations, leaving middle- and low-income countries far behind in the fight against the pandemic. Today, rich countries like the US, Canada, and the UK have vaccinated more than half of their populations, while most African countries continue to struggle to secure doses.
The US vaccine donation comes just a few days after Pfizer-BioNTech announced that it would begin producing vaccines for the African continent in South Africa. The pharmaceutical company signed a letter of intent on July 21 with Cape Town’s Biovac Institute, with the aim to “transfer technology, install equipment, and develop manufacturing capability,” the company said in a statement.
However the company has not committed to sharing patents or fully producing vaccines in South Africa, and while this new deal is set to bring doses into the continent, South Africa would not be producing vaccines from start to finish. The country would still depend on importing the vaccines from Europe, for them to be packaged and distributed from South Africa.
Furthering their latest vaccine donation, US officials said that shipments of 500 million Pfizer vaccines from the US, as pledged by President Biden, are set to begin next month. The doses will benefit 92 low- and middle-income countries as well as those that are member states of the African Union.
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