The African Union has secured close to 300 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the largest such agreement yet for Africa. The 300 million doses are being secured independently of the global COVAX effort aimed at distributing COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, said Nicaise Ndembi, senior science adviser for the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have reached the final stage of our deals,” he said, referring questions about who will be providing the vaccines and at what cost to the upcoming announcement. The news comes as coronavirus infections spike again in parts of Africa, especially South Africa, where a rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus now makes up most of the new cases. The continent over the weekend surpassed 3 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 1.2 million in South Africa. Ndembi said African officials have approached at least 10 vaccine manufacturers and developers as the continent seeks to vaccinate 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people, or about 780 million people. The Africa CDC has said some 1.5 billion doses are needed for that, assuming two doses per person. It estimates the effort will cost some $10 billion. Ndembi has said he’s very optimistic that can be achieved within two years. The Africa CDC has warned that taking much longer than that risks having the virus become endemic in parts of the African continent.
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