(CNN) – The African Union announced that it will drop plans to purchase additional doses of AstraZeneca vaccine directly from the Serum Institute in India, focusing instead on securing more vaccines from Johnson & Johnson.
The director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC), John Nkengasung – at a hypothetical press briefing on Thursday from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – said the decision is not related to recent safety concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine, but because “we are working a lot closely with Kovacs (initiative). Vaccine Exchange Facility for the World’s Poorest Countries.
Nkengasung explained that Johnson’s main focus is to ensure. And last week, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Force (AVATT) signed a pre-purchase agreement with Johnson & Johnson for 220 million doses on behalf of 55 African Union (AU) member states.
The AU is currently exploring options to secure an additional 180 million doses of the Johnson vaccine, according to Nankangasung.
“Given that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is a single dose, this means that we have the capacity – if those vaccines are chosen by countries – to vaccinate 400 million people on the continent,” Nkengasung said.
Based on the agreement, the Director of the National Program Development Center hopes that vaccines will be “available at the beginning of the third quarter.”
The decision comes a day after the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union’s regulator, discovered that there was a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca vaccine and “very rare cases of blood clots.”
On the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Nkengasung said: “This vaccine is still safe. We will continue to recommend the use of vaccines.” He also reiterated that the European Agency’s recommendation “still exists that the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweigh the risks of rare and unusual side effects of the vaccine.”
“A total of 33.8 million doses of vaccine have been obtained by member states, with nearly 12.9 million doses administered,” Nkengasung confirmed.
He welcomed the news that “Seychelles and Mauritius have received sufficient doses of the Covid vaccine to reach 20% of the targeted vaccination standards, which is what the Kovacs facility promised.”