The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has announced that African countries will be able to access up to 400 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson following a production agreement with the company in South Africa.

The agreement provides security for 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the first instance, with the opportunity to purchase additional 180 million doses in the future. Accordingly, the vaccines will be produced by South African pharmaceutical company, Aspen Pharma, in its facility at the Eastern Cape, following through on the agreement with the US drugmaker.

South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the chairperson of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVATT), appraised the initiative saying it will help the continent secure a large number of coronavirus vaccines.

“This agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans,” he said.

The deal for the vaccines was made possible through the injection of some US$2 billion provided by Afreximbank, who is effectively underwriting the purchase. However, It is understood that African countries will take out loans with the lender to buy the doses. In effect, mass vaccine production will help support the large progress made on the continent so far.