South Sudan on Thursday received 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
This is the first of several vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive over the coming months courtesy of the Covax facility.
Addressing members of the press at Juba International Airport on Thursday, Health Minister Elizabeth Achuei thanked partners for the great support.
“The Covid-19 vaccine will help us to protect our population against Covid-19 infections and prepare for a return to a normal life. We are grateful to all partners for their support in facilitating the arrival of the vaccines in our country” said Achuei.
Patience Musanhu, Gavi Senior Country Manager, said, “This delivery is the product of an unprecedented global partnership to ensure every country has access to Covid-19 vaccines. These vaccines are safe, they are effective, and they will be an important tool in the fight against this disease.”
Meanwhile, Ms Hamida Lasseko, Unicef South Sudan Representative, said the arrival of the vaccines is the first step towards return to a normal life.
“We are delighted the hard work over the last weeks has paid off and we will have no rest until vaccines are brought to those most in need across the country and the vaccination campaign starts,” she said.
According to partners, Covid-19 vaccination in South Sudan will be provided on a voluntary basis and free of charge. All people receiving the vaccine will be asked to provide consent prior to being inoculated.
“We are thrilled that we received the vaccine. The vaccine will complement, and not replace, proven public health measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene alongside robust programmes to test, trace, isolate and treat.
“WHO appeals to the general public to adhere to preventive public health measures by wearing masks, keeping a distance, and frequently washing hands,” said Dr Fabian Ndenzako, WHO Representative for South Sudan.
South Sudan expects to receive a total of 732,000 doses of vaccines by June.
The country plans to vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population by the end of 2022.
The country will prioritise healthcare workers, and people aged 65 years and older.