The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) yesterday in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, inaugurated a No-Fault Compensation Scheme (NFCS) programme for COVID-19 vaccines in participating countries in Africa and the Caribbean.
According to it, AVAT NFCS provides eligible individuals with prompt, fair and transparent compensation for unlikely adverse events associated with COVID-19 vaccines procured or distributed under the AVAT initiative.
The AVAT NFCS is the first of its kind to be created by an African consortium.
The AVAT NFCS is driven by the African Union(AU), Afreximbank, Africa CDC and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
Other partners include ECONET and its to be administered by ESIS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chubb Insurance Company.
AVAT acts as a centralised purchasing agent on behalf of the AU Member States, to secure the necessary vaccines and blended financing resources for achieving Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy.
It is designed to reinforce public trust that in the unlikely event of adverse effects related to COVID-19 vaccination, quick and easy access to compensation is guaranteed.
Building this confidence is essential for achieving widespread vaccine adoption
Speaking on the sidelines at the event, Prof. Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman, Board of Directors, Afreximbank, highlighted the functions and benefits of the scheme.
He said: “The AVAT NFCS provides eligible individuals with prompt, fair and transparent compensation for unlikely adverse events associated with COVID-19 vaccines procured or distributed under the AVAT initiative.
“It is a framework designed to support the vaccinations delivered under the AVAT scheme.
“The principle of the No-Fault compensation scheme is that manufacturers as well as the public and even individuals want to be protected because of the way vaccines were developed in a very expedited manner.
“It was not normal. What would have taken five to seven years was done within one year to 18 months.
“So, it was important that a compensation scheme be put in place, so that should severe adverse events occur, people will have a predictable way of getting compensated.
“For Africa, it was not easy with 55 countries and smaller economies. It was becoming a challenge.
“We had to work to put in place a continent wide framework to make it possible for those who wouldn’t have been able to do it, to do it. Without it, they wouldn’t have had access to vaccines in the first place.”
According to Oramah, the No-Fault Compensation Scheme is specific to the AVAT procurement of Johnson and Johnson vaccines as it is today.
He said that, however, there was collaboration with the COVAX facility.
On the modalities for accessing compensation, he said: “For this specific scheme, for you to make a claim, you must have been vaccinated under the AVAT vaccine framework.
“That is when you qualify; you must be from a citizen of the country that is participating in this scheme.
“There are 41 countries participating in this scheme. These are some of the preconditions for you to qualify to seek compensation.’’
For Nigeria, Oramah said that with plans by the Federal Government to make Johnson & Johnson the priority vaccine because it is a single dose vaccine, the AVAT NFCS becomes apt.
“This would help immensely in their approach because it provides the government the cover for government to tell the citizens that these vaccines are there, you take them and you are also protected because we do not have in Nigeria.
“People may wish to know, should something happen, What do I do? How do I get compensated?
“This provides the answer and also protects government from potential litigation from citizens who are taking vaccines because the government is asking them to take those vaccines,’’ he said.
The Executive Secretary of UNECA, Dr Vera Songwe, who commended the initiative, said that the pandemic had led to loss of lives and pushed 55 million people into extreme poverty.
According to her, the pandemic has also exposed certain pre-existing vulnerabilities, thereby stalling and reversing slow progress towards improved welfare and the achievement of agenda 2030 and Africa’s agenda 2063.
“It is against this backdrop, that AVAT is so important and a game changer for the continent at the forefront of the biggest immunisation operations of our time.
“This is by acting as a centralised negotiating, purchasing and payment agent on behalf of the African Union member states and CARICOM member states,” she said.
These member states are Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; and Montserrat (a British overseas territory in the Leeward Islands).
Others are, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
She said: “Africa has shown that when left with itself, it can devise innovative solutions, to not only to save our health and our lives, but to save our livelihoods.
“And the African Union, the African CDC, the Afreximbank holding on to the leadership of the AU Special efforts has demonstrated that Africa can when it wants.’’
Dr Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director, Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) also lauded the initiative.
“This is really the first time that Africa has stepped up, has planned, negotiated, bought and distributed its own vaccines at this scale.
“And it is something that we must be proud of as Africans, and use it as a stepping stone for us to do even more going into the future,” he said.
According to him, the African Vaccines Acquisition Task Team has opened a very important goal for public health need.
“It has opened a very important door for Africa to be able to do similar things in all other sectors that we prioritise.
“We thank the team and as Africa CDC being a part of it, it has been a learning experience,’’ Ouma said.