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Africa Union ministers to hold an emergency COVID-19 meeting

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Africa Union ministers to hold an emergency COVID-19 meeting

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Photo: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Health ministers from African Union (AU) member-states will hold an emergency conference today to discuss the bloc’s COVID-19 response plan.

Today’s meeting comes as countries within the 55-member bloc are struggling to acquire and administer COVID-19 vaccines. Forty-one AU states have received vaccines through the COVAX program. Yet, many countries have been slow to begin vaccinations; seven have yet to start. Many states lack the logistical means to administer population-wide programs, leading countries—including Malawi—to discard unused vaccines prior to expiration. Compounding the bloc’s difficulties, due to India’s rising COVID-19 escalation, the Indian government has stopped exporting the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII). Notably, the SII has provided COVAX with most of the doses used in AU countries.

Expect AU officials to prioritize funding improvements to the bloc’s healthcare infrastructure and the sourcing of both vaccines and medical equipment in today’s meeting. While early-pandemic international investments focused mostly on bettering AU countries’ ability to store vaccines, the bloc may succeed in lobbying multilateral organizations—including the World Health Organization—for funding to address problems with delivery in the near-term. However, since the bloc lacks the significant capacity to produce vaccines internally, a months-long vaccine shortage remains likely as countries exhaust their supplies.

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