Rwanda prepares to procure million of COVID doses among first four African nations

As Rwanda plans to acquire a million Covid-19 vaccines later this month, Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije says it is important for the vaccine to be successful in community participation and cooperation between countries.

Rwanda, along with South Africa, Cape Verde and Tunisia, is among the first four African countries that have achieved the mandatory requirements for obtaining Covid-19 vaccines over the next few weeks.

Speaking at an online WHO Africa press briefing on Covid-19 in Africa on 4 February, Dr Ngamije said Rwanda relies on the Covax facility, a global initiative aimed at speeding up equal access to vaccines and providing adequate doses to cover 20% of the population. Rwanda is seeking assistance from the African Union and other allies for the remainder of the population.

“Our ambition is to vaccinate 60 per cent of the population this year. The first batch will be out in March to be given to mainly frontline workers and elderly people,” the minister clarified.

Rwanda plans to receive 996,000 and 102,960 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, out of 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that will be released in the first quarter of 2021.

According to East Africa, Rwanda is the only country scheduled to receive the mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech in the region. Since it needs ultra cold storage, due to the difficulty of shipping, storage and distribution, many African countries have shied away from buying it.

According to Covax statistics, the published distribution of AstraZeneca vaccines is descriptive, based on current reports of estimated manufacturers’ availability.

“In this regard, it is likely the distribution may need to be adjusted in light of circumstances that are difficult to anticipate and variables that are constantly evolving,” reads a statement from Covax.

In order to engage the public with the support of opinion leaders, Rwanda is planning awareness campaigns.

“We have seen groups of people already promoting conspiracy theories against the vaccine, but I believe all we need to do is explain and solve any misunderstanding around the vaccine through campaigns,” Dr Ngamije said.

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