One of the world’s largest foundations announced on Tuesday that it will spend $1.3 billion over the next three years to obtain and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to more than 50 million people in Africa.
Tuesday’s announcement from the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, which has assets of more than $39 billion, came after the World Health Organization said Africa was facing an alarming mix of a spike in virus cases and a “near halt” of vaccine shipments . Among other things, India’s pause on vaccine exports has been delayed.
The foundation will buy single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines at a discounted rate negotiated by the African Union during a 220 million dose deal with the vaccine maker. Those vaccines will begin to be distributed in 55 member states of the AU from July to September, with the option to purchase an additional 180 million doses by the following year.
But some countries are having problems with the J&J vaccine. In South Africa, the first batch of 1.1 million doses, which should have already been put into use, has stalled at a factory in Baltimore due to contamination concerns. Another batch of 900,000 doses was to be released in June.
Doses purchased by the foundation, which has operated independently of Mastercard since its launch in 2006, will begin to become available in “progressively larger quantities” in August, said Julie Veganzo, a spokeswoman for the foundation.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is partnering with the foundation on the initiative, and will consult with African government agencies and other institutions on how to best deploy the shots.
Dr. John Nkengsong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press: “This is indeed a huge moment, and a moment that I see as transformative in our ability to fight the war against this pandemic. I mark.”
“We will engage countries to understand their vaccination plans, and see where exactly to fit in,” he said, adding the partnership with the foundation will help deploy the 220 million J&J doses that will be available in the future. Huh.
The foundation says the funds will be used to help transport vaccines, organize community engagement activities that address vaccine hesitancy, identify potential virus variants, help with vaccine deployment, and more. Train workers to improve speed and help develop a skilled workforce that can expand. Vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
“We should expect good things from this, but it will take time,” said Lawrence O’Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University. “It’s not going to solve all problems.”
“Africa will soon become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “It’s going to reverse many of the gains made in many regions of Africa … it will devastate the African economy.”
Africa has given vaccines to 31 million people out of its population of 1.3 billion. But only 7 million have received both doses, the WHO’s regional office for Africa said last week.
Health officials are sounding the alarm about the dire situation, and urging rich countries to share their remaining vaccines. The White House said last week the US would allocate 5 million doses to Africa as part of a plan to share 25 million doses worldwide through the United Nations-backed COVAX program.
“I hope that other foundations, and more governments, will step in to help the continent,” Gostin said.
The Associated Press receives support from the Lilly Endowment for its coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits. AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.