33M Moderna Vaccines Meant for U.S. Will Head to Africa, Official Calls It a 'Great Day'

African countries will receive up to 110 million COVID-19 vaccines after the U.S. said it will allow them to be next in line for doses as the least-vaccinated continent, the Associated Press reported.

"It is a great day for us," said Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union special envoy on COVID-19.

A White House official said the U.S. will defer about 33 million Moderna doses between December and February to Africa, doses that were originally intended for the U.S., as African nations have been facing months of grief as richer countries who had more access and bigger budgets hoarded coronavirus vaccinations, delaying deliveries to countries that needed it most.

Africa is currently the least-vaccinated region in the world, with just over 5 percent of the 1.3 billion people having had shots to protect against COVID-19.

Masiyiwa thanked the U.S. for helping Africa gain access to vaccines, and in the midst of Africa's frustrations, Moderna said "all doses are offered at Moderna's lowest tiered price."

Moderna said Tuesday that it is prepared to deliver the first 15 million doses by the end of this year, followed by around 35 million doses in 2022's first quarter, and around 60 million doses during the second quarter.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Africa recieves 33M COVID vaccines
African countries will receive up to 110 million COVID-19 vaccines after the U.S. said it will allow them to be next in line as the least-vaccinated continent. Above, an airport worker stands next to boxes of Moderna coronavirus vaccine, donated by the U.S. government via the COVAX facility, after their arrival at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 23, 2021. Brian Inganga/Associated Press

Masiyiwa stressed that African countries are first purchasing 50 million Moderna vaccines with the option for 20 million a month in April, May and June, depending on the company's performance in December.

"We are in position to secure more vaccines from Moderna but want to see more concrete details emerging about their production in Africa," he said.

If the full contract with Moderna is activated, African nations can reach the goal of vaccinating 450 million people by September 2022, Masiyiwa said. That's half of the target of vaccinating 70 percent of the continent's population, or 900 million people. African nations earlier struck a deal with Johnson & Johnson for up to 400 million doses.

Moderna called this "the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union," which has been outspoken about the need for many more COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Moderna said this agreement is separate from its deal with the global COVAX project to supply up to 500 million doses from late this year through 2022. COVAX aims to supply doses to low- and middle-income countries.

And yet with all these vaccines, the African continent will not hit the mark of fully vaccinating 10 percent of its population by the end of this year, said Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa.

Less than 9 percent of the population in Africa has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, said Seth Berkley of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, calling it "unacceptable."

He said COVAX by the end of this year expects to have 470 million doses available for Africa and exceed 900 million doses by the end of March. He said 127 million doses have been delivered so far.