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COVAX features heavily in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout this week

The COVAX initiative in Africa.   -  
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Frank Augstein/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved


COVAX Makes Mark on African Vaccine Campaigns

Africa sees a revving up its continental engine to roll out coronavirus vaccines for its around 1.3 billion population. 

The United-Nations-co-led COVAX initiative — which aims to procure and distribute vaccines to economically-challenged countries worldwide, was active in several nations this week.

Rwanda Still on Top of the Crisis

Rwanda on Wednesday became the first African country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine - with just over 100,000 doses delivered to the capital Kigali through the UN-led Covax initiative

Earlier in the day, Rwanda took separate possession of 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab, its first delivery under the Covax facility.

The health ministry said the collective 340,000 doses would be dispatched Thursday from a biomedical warehouse in Kigali to district hospitals and onward to hundreds of health centres dotted across Rwanda.

The ministry said the vaccine shipment should protect about 171,500 frontline personnel, as well as other priority citizens such as those over 65 or with underlying health conditions.

"We will immediately roll out our prepared vaccination plan, which will see target risk groups across Rwanda receive their first of two vaccine doses," Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said in a statement.

In February, Rwanda became the first country in East Africa to begin vaccinating against the disease, targeting high-risk groups such as healthcare workers after acquiring around 1,000 doses of the Moderna jab.

Rwanda has carried out more than a million coronavirus tests and detected just over 19,100 cases. As of Wednesday, 265 people had lost their lives to the disease.

It imposed some of the strictest anti-coronavirus measures on the continent, including one of Africa's first total shutdowns in March 2020. It put capital Kigali back under a full lockdown in January after a surge in cases.

Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is based on different technology to AstraZeneca's and is expected to be much more effective in protecting against the onset of Covid-19 when transmitted through the South African variant.

Sudan Now Ready for Vaccine Campaign

Sudan also received its first batch of 800,000-doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday via COVAX.

The shipment — produced by the Serum Institute in India, was part of the 3.4 million doses Sudan is due to receive from COVAX and was sent to the capital Khartoum in coordination with the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Sudan is the first country in the North African region to receive coronavirus vaccines through the initiative.

Health Minister Omar Ahmed al-Najib said the country's vaccination campaign would begin soon and prioritize health care workers and elderly people.

"The amount (of vaccines) reached today will be enough for a big part of those working in the health professions. Because they are more susceptible to being infected (they will get vaccines first), for the sake of offering a safe health service for our citizens. The vaccine will be free for all citizens. More shipments will be arriving consecutively, God willing."

Sudan — one of over 90 countries that will receive vaccines for free through the COVAX initiative, a country of around 43 million people, has reported more than 28,500 cases, including 1,895 deaths.

Another 90 countries and eight territories have agreed to pay for their doses.

Guinea Receives Chinese Vaccine

That same day elsewhere in Conakry, the Guinean foreign minister and the Chinese ambassador attended the delivery of 200,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

The injections — unlike several other nations this week, were not acquired via COVAX but donated to Guinea by the East-Asian country’s government upon the positive response from Chinese president Xi Jinping on February 12 to a request for vaccine supplies.

Huang Wei, the Chinese ambassador to Guinea, expressed China's position of support of the nation during the health crisis. 

"It is difficult for developing countries to access vaccines that are in high demand. To help these countries acquire vaccines, China promised to make these vaccines a global public good so that they would be accessible and affordable in developing countries. "

201,600 syringes accompanied the shots in the shipment.

Côte d’Ivoire Kicks Off Vaccine Campaign

Côte d'Ivoire launched its vaccination campaign against Covid-19 on Monday thanks to Covax, a global scheme to procure free Covid jabs for poorer countries.

Eugène Aka Ouélé, the Ivorian Minister of Health, outlined the campaign approach.

"For this first phase, vaccination will only concern the autonomous district of Abidjan, as Abidjan is the epicentre of the epidemic in the country, with 95% of positive cases. This campaign will take place over a period of 10 days."

Secretary-General in the presidency Patrick Achi is the first in the country to be administered the injection.

The health minister explained the Ivorian government’s ultimate goal as far as overcoming the global health crisis.

"The main objective is to vaccinate 70% of each identified target. The priority target is estimated at around 5,670,000 people and represents 20%of the total population. This target is composed of two phases. Phase 1 concerns 3% of the total population. It is made up of health personnel, defence and security forces and teachers."

Other recipients of coronavirus vaccines via the global health initiative were the Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

The COVAX program was formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by perceived low- and middle-income countries, but it has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems.