The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc. in an arrangement brokered in part by the United States which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the U.S. to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters.
The AU’s doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter.
“This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately,” AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email.
Masiyiwa said the Moderna purchase represented the first time the 55-member AU had secured vaccines that were not fully produced in Africa.
The new shipments of vaccines are well below what Africa needs to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people, who have had far less access to life-saving vaccines than more prosperous parts of the world. Getting access to Moderna vaccines adds diversity to the AU’s vaccine supply with different storage requirements.
“We are grateful to have helped negotiate this encouraging step forward between Moderna and the African Union that will significantly expand access to vaccines on the continent in the near-term,” Quillian said.
Moderna said it was working to make it possible to fill doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Africa by 2023 and has plans to build a manufacturing plant on the continent.
“This is the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in a statement, referring to a Memorandum of Understanding to make up to 110 million doses for the AU.
Last month, the AU accused COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers of denying African countries a fair chance to buy vaccines and urged manufacturing countries, in particular India, to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.