Rwanda has received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX initiative. About 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine arrived in Kigali on Wednesday morning aboard Qatar Airline.
The second consignment with 102,960 jabs of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive in the evening via a KLM flight also from the COVAX facility, and all through a coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Dr. Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Health and, Dr. Mwinga Kasonde, World Health Organisation (WHO) Rwanda country representative were at the airport to receive the vaccines, valued at approximately US$720,000, according to sources.
Vaccination will begin on Friday beginning with high-risk groups across the country. The target is to vaccinate 30% of the population by the end of 2021, and 60% by the end of 2022, according to the Minister of Health.
Dr. Kasonde said that Rwanda has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak with the determination to suppress the circulation of the virus and save lives. “These doses Of COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX Facility represent an unprecedented global effort to have equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” she said.
A complete dose requires two shots. The AstraZeneca-Oxford and Pfizer vaccines will thus cater for 171,480 people identified as priority risk groups, including frontline workers, and those above 65 years old, and some with chronic health conditions.
Germany is the single biggest donor to ACT-Accelerator and COVAX at a tune of with its €2.1 billion.
Dr. Ngamije told journalists that, “We are pleased to receive these first AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines through the COVAX initiative, and appreciate the partnerships with the UN Family, GAVL funders as well as manufacturers that have made this possible.”
Juliana Lindsey, UNICEF-Rwanda Country Representative said that children, women, and men all over the country can be confident that Rwanda has taken its first steps towards recovering from the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the vaccines will be dispatched from the Rwanda Biomedical Center warehouse to District Hospitals and then on to all 508 health centres across Rwanda.
Vaccination exercises will take place on Friday in hospitals and health centres, and vaccine recipients will be invited through their respective Districts.
Minister Ngamije cautioned that those vaccinated should continue to observe COVID prevention measures, including masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowded and closed spaces, and hand hygiene.
The health minister also pointed out that the Governmentof Rwanda continues negotiations with multiple partners, including international organizations and other governments, to acquire additional vaccines that will cover more people in subsequent phases.