MTN donates $25m to the AU vaccine programme for health workers

28th January 2021 By: Yvonne Silaule - Contributor

Telecoms group MTN has donated $25-million to the African Union's (AU's) vaccine programme to immunise health workers.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also chairperson of the AU, made the announcement on Wednesday during the African Covid-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Strategy webinar.

"We call upon other companies, both of African origin and offshore companies that do business in Africa, to do what MTN has done to contribute financially to enable African countries to immunise their target groups," he said.

"It is against this background that we have convened this webinar to discuss the continent's state of readiness to deploy Covid-19 vaccines effectively," he added.

Ramaphosa said issues such as financing and streamlined regulatory processes, reliance mechanisms, logistics, human resources, governance, communication, community engagement strategies and a country's readiness needed to be examined.

"We need to discuss innovative solutions to leverage different roll-out capacities, including opportunities for collaboration with a range of private sector role-players," he noted.

Ramaphosa said the purpose of the meeting was to identify the next steps to be taken in ensuring the rapid deployment of vaccines to eligible populations.

"With the progress made towards the acquisition of vaccines for the continent, we look to this meeting to identify the next steps we should take to ensure the rapid deployment of vaccines to the eligible populations," he said.

He added that more countries would need to support this initiative, saying this would enable more countries to access active pharmaceutical ingredients and benefit from technology transfer, including the know-how to manufacture vaccines in Africa at a cheaper cost. 

"Earlier this month, I convened a meeting of the AU Bureau to discuss the work undertaken by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. The task team was set up to ensure that the African continent would secure sufficient vaccine doses to achieve herd immunity," he noted.

He estimated that Africa would only be able to access about 20% of the vaccines it needs through the Covax facility. 

"We therefore found it necessary to complement this facility to ensure health workers are vaccinated soonest and countries reach herd immunity faster."

Ramaphosa outlined that, together with India, South Africa has proposed a trade-related intellectual property rights (Trips) waiver in response to the pandemic. 

"We are calling on the World Trade Organization to waive specific Trips obligations related to the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 for a defined period."