By Nuru Ahmed

Zambia has been allocated 8.7 million doses of the 270 million Covid-19 vaccines secured this month by the African Union (AU).

According to His Excellency Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU, the number of doses may rise to 25 million by December 2021. The initiative will allocate vaccine doses according to the size of each country’s population.

Mwamba said the initiative is being conducted by the Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), a platform that has been created to ensure that up to 60% of Africa’s population is vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by the end of 2021.

So far, it has secured 270 million doses of the vaccines for distribution allover the continent.

According to a draft briefing on the plan prepared by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), African countries will pay between $3 and $10 per vaccine doses to access the shots secured by AU.

“If member states have to buy individually, they have to wait until July 2022, but through this mechanism, we can access the vaccines by April 2021,” Mwamba said in a statement.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who serves as the AU chair said “the vaccines secured by AU will be supplied by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and through the Serum Institute of India.”

The vaccines will require approval from African Union Centers of Disease Control and further approval from local regulatory and other approval mechanisms.

The Zambian government has said no Covid-19 vaccines will be administrated to citizens without undergoing efficiency and safety tests first.

Zambia with a population close to 18 million has had 45,337 cases of Covid-19 and 639 fatalities.

Prof Omu Anzala of the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Nairobi – Kenya estimates the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines will not reach Africa until after the first quarter of 2021.

He is concerned logistical challenges will make distributing the vaccines across Africa difficult.

“The costs of the individual vial may not be a problem,” he told a virtual media briefing organised by the Africa Science Media Center (AfriSMC). “The problem may be distribution and administration.”