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World Bank, African Union join forces to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A participant stands near a logo of World Bank at the International Monetary Fund - World Bank Annual Meeting 2018 in Nusa Dua

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Bank and the African Union said on Monday they would work together to accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations for up to 400 million people across Africa, bolstering efforts to vaccinate 60% of the continent's population by 2022.

In a joint statement, the World Bank and the African Union said their agreement would provide needed resources to the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative, allowing countries to purchase and deploy more vaccines.

The initiative will complement efforts already underway by the COVAX vaccine-sharing program, which is co-run by the World Health Organization. A WHO official on Monday said more than half of poorer countries receiving doses via COVAX do not have enough supplies to continue.

The new World Bank initiative comes amid shortages caused in part by manufacturing delays and Indian supply disruptions, with cases and deaths rising as a third wave of infections sweeps across Africa.

"The World Bank is very pleased to support African countries through this partnership with the African Union to quickly provide hundreds of millions of doses," World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement. "Countries urgently need more pathways for acquiring vaccines that match their needs and have early delivery schedules.”

Strive Masiyiwa, African Union special envoy, said the collaboration between the World Bank and African institutions such as the Africa Import Export Bank and the Africa Centre for Disease Control would provide the capacity to vaccinate at least 400 million people, or 30% of the total African population.

No details were immediately available on the cost of the initiative, but the funds will come from the $12 billion the World Bank has made available for vaccine financing and distribution. The Bank said it expects to be supporting vaccination efforts in 50 countries, two thirds of which are in Africa, by the end of June.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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