African Union drops plans to buy COVID vaccines from Indias SSI, pivots to J&J

A day after EU and UK health regulators said they had found possible links between AstraZeneca vaccine and reports of brain blood clots, the African Union has dropped plans to buy COVID-19 vaccines from the Serum Institute of India.

African Union drops plans to buy COVID vaccines from Indias SSI, pivots to J&J Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The African Union’s disease control body said on Thursday it has dropped plans to secure AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for its members from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine supplier, amid global shortfalls of the shot.

The announcement is another blow to AstraZeneca, which has touted its shot as the vaccine for the world because it is the cheapest and easiest to store and transport, making it well suited to the needs of developing countries.

It comes the day after European and British medicine regulators said they had found possible links between the vaccine and rare cases of brain blood clots, while nonetheless reaffirming its importance in protecting people.

John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said the possible link had nothing to do with the AU’s decision and reiterated his recommendation that “the benefits of receiving the vaccine outweighs the risks”.

However, he said the AU had shifted its efforts to securing doses from Johnson & Johnson, citing a deal announced last week to supply the continent with up to 400 million doses of its vaccine beginning in the third quarter.

AstraZeneca makes up the vast majority of doses that African nations expect to receive through COVAX, which aims to deliver 600 million shots to some 40 African countries this year, enough to vaccinate 20% of their populations.

Africa is far behind nations such as Israel and the United States in its vaccination rollout. As of Thursday, some 12.9 million doses had been administered on the continent of 1.3 billion people, according to the Africa CDC.

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