(Reuters) – Africa will start to receive the first batch of 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) next week, the African Union’s special envoy on COVID said on Thursday.
The doses will be used to immunize half of the estimated 800 million people in need of the vaccine on the continent, Strive Masiyiwa, who is also the head of the AU’s task force on vaccine acquisition, told an online news conference.
South Africa aims to have given at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 35 million of its 60 million people by Christmas, a senior health official said on Wednesday.
The Department of Health’s Nicholas Crisp added during a briefing to a parliamentary committee that roughly 25,000 vaccine doses had been either stolen or destroyed during riots last week.
The country is the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic on the African continent in terms of recorded infections and deaths and is experiencing a “third wave” of infections.
Its vaccination campaign started slowly due to a mix of bureaucratic failures, bad luck, and onerous negotiations with pharmaceutical companies. But the pace of vaccinations has ramped up in recent days, and health department data showed on Wednesday that over 250,000 vaccinations had been administered in the past 24 hours.