Health workers and other priority populations vulnerable to COVID-19 can now expect to receive life-saving coronavirus vaccines in Rwanda as 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India were delivered by UNICEF on behalf of the COVAX Facility.
Rwanda is also set to receive 102,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine later today as part of the distribution of 1.2 million doses procured from the manufacturer by COVAX, becoming the first African country to receive these vaccines through COVAX.
To date, over 19,000 Rwandans have been infected by COVID-19 and 265 lives have been lost. After close to a year of periodic lockdown restrictions and other prevention measures such as school closures that have had a devastating impact on the local economy and social fabric of the country, the arrival of the vaccines marks the much-anticipated beginning-of-the-end of the pandemic.
“Immeasurable efforts have gone into ensuring that the support system is in place for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry of Health has a plan to vaccinate frontline health workers and other sections of the society in Rwanda at high risk of COVID-19 as part of the first wave of vaccinations,”
“Congratulations to the Government and people of Rwanda upon this historic moment. Children, women, and men all over the country can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Rwanda has taken its first steps towards recovering from the pandemic,” said the UNICEF Representative in Rwanda Ms. Julianna Lindsey.
The shipment of the vaccines to Rwanda is part of groundbreaking efforts by COVAX to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID 19 vaccines globally in 2021 including at least 1.3 billion to the 92 economies eligible for support through the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC)*. It marks the continuation of what will be the most extensive and fastest global procurement and supply of vaccines in history.
“Today’s shipment as well as other up-coming shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to Rwanda is a result of the Government’s strong commitment and efforts to protect people living in the country” said the World Health Organization Representative in Rwanda, Dr Kasonde Mwinga. Dr Mwinga added that along with other COVID-19 response measures, the vaccines will help save lives, stabilize health systems and drive economic recovery. WHO looks forward to Rwanda kicking off its vaccination campaign across the country.
An extensive roll out programme to inoculate around 30 per cent of the population by the end of 2021 and reach 60 per cent of the total population by the end of 2022 will be underway in Rwanda. First in line to receive the vaccines will be health workers, other frontline workers, the elderly, those with non-communicable diseases, refugees, inmates and teachers.
“The first arrivals of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Rwanda represents the start of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide,” says Rachel Belt, Senior Country Manager for Rwanda at Gavi.
“We recognize the significant preparation and effort undertaken by the Government of Rwanda to ensure at-risk populations are prioritized and reached with COVID-19 vaccines.”
COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, CEPI, working in partnership with UNICEF. The COVAX Facility is the global pooled procurement mechanism for COVAX, which is working to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to 190 participating countries and economies. (End)