African Union shifts attention to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine

The African bloc explores alternative options as it looks to vaccinate 60% of population within the next two to three years.

According to the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, the continental body has dropped plans to secure additional COVID-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India and is exploring options with the US. pharma giant Johnson & Johnson. Though the AU will still look to supply the AstraZeneca vaccine to its member states through the World Health Organization’s COVAX vaccine facility, it will be sourcing additional vaccine supplies from Johnson & Johnson. The announcement came a day after the European and British medicine regulators indicated they had found possible links between AstraZeneca's vaccine and reports of very rare cases of brain blood clots.

Nkengasong clarified that the AU’s decision was not related to the findings, reiterating that the benefits of the vaccine still outweighed the risks. He explained the move was informed by a decision to avoid duplicating efforts already underway by the COVAX facility to continue to supplying AstraZeneca’s vaccine to the continent. At $3 shot, AstraZeneca’s vaccine is by far the cheapest coronavirus vaccine available. The bloc expects 600 million shots through COVAX - most of them from AstraZeneca – which would be enough to vaccinate 20% of the continent. In addition, the bloc will be getting up to 400 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses from July this year as it looks to vaccinate 60% of its population.