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Photo: Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson has inked a deal with the African Union (AU) to supply up to 400 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine starting in the third quarter of the year, the drugmaker announced Monday.

Why it matters: Disparities in vaccine access remain a challenge for Africans, especially as the continent struggles to contain the coronavirus variant that originated in South Africa.

  • South Africa has a vaccination rate of 0.3%, and most other African countries are on par with that number. The U.S. maintains a 34.6% vaccination rate, in contrast.
  • The virus has infected 4.18 million people across Africa and killed almost 121,000, according to Reuters.

Details: J&J will deliver 220 million doses of its single-dose shot starting in the July-September quarter. The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) will be able to purchase an additional 180 million doses through 2022.

  • Regulators in African countries must still authorize the vaccine, but the World Health Organization approved it for emergency use earlier this month.
  • Data shows that the vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe disease and protecting against different variants, including the variant from South Africa, 28 days after vaccination, the company said.
  • Most of the supplies will be produced by Aspen Pharma in South Africa.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Dave Lawler: The shots are to be manufactured mainly in South Africa, which would be a big development because right now there are virtually no shots being produced on the continent. And J&J’s vaccine could be particularly important to developing countries because it's relatively cheap and easy to ship and store, plus just a single shot.

What they're saying: "From the beginning of this pandemic, Johnson & Johnson has recognized that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and we have been committed to equitable, global access to new COVID-19 vaccines," Alex Gorsky, J&J chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

  • "Our support for the COVAX Facility, combined with supplementary agreements with countries and regions, will help accelerate global progress toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic."

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

Moderna ships 100 millionth COVID-19 vaccine dose to U.S. government

Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna has shipped 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. government, meeting its Q1 goal for the first tranche of 300 million shots purchased by the U.S., the pharmaceutical company announced Monday.

What's next: Moderna said it expects to meet the rest of its commitment dates to the U.S. government, including another 100 million doses by the end of May and the third set of 100 million doses by the end of July.

Mar 29, 2021 - Health

CDC: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines are 90% effective in real-world conditions

A registered nurse loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Frederic Brown/AFP via Getty Images

People who are fully vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna are 90% less likely to get infected with COVID-19, according to a CDC study that tested nearly 4,000 health care workers and other essential workers for the virus weekly.

Why it matters: The data show how well the vaccine performs in non-clinical trial settings. During the mRNA clinical trials for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, effectiveness from full vaccination was about 95%.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Mar 29, 2021 - Health

Millions of Americans remain vulnerable as variants drive up cases

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in several states, partially a result of variants of the virus becoming more widespread, experts say.

Why it matters: Even though a remarkable 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, millions of Americans — particularly younger Americans with underlying conditions — remain vulnerable.

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