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Mastercard Foundation donates US$1.3 billion to boost Africa's response to COVID pandemic

Mastercard Foundation donates US$1.3 billion to boost Africa's pandemic response in one of largest such efforts to date.

The money will be used to buy COVID19 vaccines for >50 million people, boost vaccine manufacturing & strengthen public health.

The Mastercard Foundation on Tuesday announced a $1.3 billion donation to boost Africa’s response to the coronavirus, which public health experts hailed as a significant step to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest people. “Ensuring equitable access and delivery of vaccines across Africa is urgent,” Reeta Roy, the foundation’s CEO, said in a statement. “This initiative is about valuing all lives and accelerating the economic recovery of the continent.”

The funding, which will be distributed over three years in partnership with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to help acquire vaccines for more than 50 million of the continent’s 1.3 billion people, improve its vaccine manufacturing and delivery system and strengthen public health institutions.

The foundation’s pledge — one of the largest private gifts made in the pandemic fight — comes amid a growing outcry over the lack of vaccine supply for poorer countries. While the United States and other high-income countries have provided at least one dose of a vaccine to most of their residents, many developing countries are not expected to have sufficient vaccine supply until at least 2022. President Biden this week is set to attend a Group of Seven meeting in Britain, where leaders are expected to debate how to address that vaccine inequality, which has sparked accusations from some advocates and public health officials that richer countries have fostered “vaccine apartheid” by hoarding doses.

The Mastercard Foundation, which says it has more than $39 billion in assets, has played a growing role in boosting Africa’s safety net during the pandemic, including a previous $40 million donation to boost the continent’s coronavirus testing. Mastercard spun off the independently operated foundation when the global financial services company went public in 2006.

Under the terms of the arrangement, the Africa CDC will help oversee the distribution of funds across the continent for an array of services, including workforce training and community engagement; drug safety efforts and genomic sequencing; and support for individual nations’ vaccination programs.

“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,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, said in a statement.

The African Union and Africa CDC last year set a goal of vaccinating at least 60 percent of the continent’s population by the end of 2022, estimating that the effort would cost at least $16 billion. So far, fewer than 2 percent of people in Africa have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, significantly trailing the global average of 11.6 percent.

About 40 percent of people in North America and the European Union have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Global public health experts hailed Tuesday's donation as a difference-maker.

“I think this is exactly the type of partnership that we had hoped to see — and that we need much more of,” said Krishna Udayakumar, who leads Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center. “We need to be putting billions to tens of billions of dollars in play to acquire vaccines, but to also enhance the delivery capacity and capabilities and to generate demand.”

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