Mastercard Foundation and Africa CDC announce $1.3 billion vaccine initiative

The Mastercard Foundation and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will deploy $1.3 billion over the next three years as part of a new initiative to acquire and deliver vaccines across the continent.

The Saving Lives and Livelihoods scheme aims to secure shots for more than 50 million people and help develop vaccine manufacturing in African countries, the organizations said in a press release Tuesday. The second wave of Covid-19 has hit Africa much harder than the first, according to analysis published in March in The Lancet medical journal.

"Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent. This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent," said Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation.

The announcement comes amid growing global concern over Covid-19 vaccine inequality. Many African nations have struggled with barely sufficient supplies of shots. The African Development Bank has warned that the pandemic could drive 39 million people into extreme poverty in 2021.

"Ensuring inclusivity in vaccine access, and building Africa's capacity to manufacture its own vaccines, is not just good for the continent, it's the only sustainable path out of the pandemic and into a health-secure future," said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday that he hoped the African continent's vaccine manufacturing sites would be up and running by the end of 2021.

"Sharing vaccines now is essential for ending the acute phase of the pandemic. But it's also clear that in an emergency, low income countries cannot rely solely on imports of vaccines from wealthier nations," he said at a news briefing.

The African Union hopes to vaccinate at least 60% of its population -- approximately 750 million people -- by the end of 2022. Currently, less than 2% of Africans have received at least one Covid-19 shot, according to the Africa CDC press release.

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