South Sudan will receive its first consignment of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine before the end of February.
As of Monday, South Sudan had recorded 4,532 Covid-19 infections since the pandemic was first reported in the country. It had also recorded 3,709 recoveries and a death toll of 68.
Addressing the weekly coronavirus briefing in Juba on Sunday, Dr John Rumunu, the Director-General of Preventive Health Services at the Ministry of Health, said 864,000 doses of the vaccine will be channelled from the United Kingdom (UK).
“I am happy to inform you that we have met all the requirements and have received information from Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) that 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been allocated to South Sudan,” said Dr Rumunu.
“Depending on the process, we will receive this consignment by the end of February. The details are being discussed by the facility, Covax and our authorities.”
Covax is one of the three pillars of the Access to Covid-19 programme. Led by the World Health Organization, The Vaccine Alliance and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the global initiative aims to facilitate equitable access to vaccines and their distribution in all countries.
Dr Rumunu said South Sudan has been invited to attend a meeting on February 8 to discuss AstraZeneca and the transfer process.
South Sudan applied for the vaccine last December and has fulfilled 20 percent of requirements that include expression of interest and support for operationalisation.
It was allotted doses in January, according to the Ministry of Health.
The official further said the ministry has designed a list of priorities on how the vaccine will be used across the country.
“The list gives priority to frontline health workers, people with underlying conditions and vulnerable groups,” he said.
Dr Guracha Guyo, South Sudan’s World Health Organization Emergency Coordinator, who addressed vaccine myths, said there is no reason to worry about safety.
“We have what we call emergency listing procedures which we subject vaccines to. The current vaccine is being used in the whole of North America, all the European countries and so forth,” he noted.
“WHO has an elaborate mechanism in place and many countries will be looking at it independently.
As a matter of fact, the AstraZeneca vaccine was used by the countries even before the WHO issued an emergency use listing. These vaccines are safe for use.”
He added “You have seen very prominent figures across the world getting it. If the vaccine comes, we (medical professionals) will [be the first ones to take it]. We don’t need to worry about it. What we should worry about is how soon it will reach us”
In Africa, South Africa received one million doses of the vaccine this week, according to the WHO.
But South Africa has suspended the start of its AstraZeneca inoculation programme over concerns the shot does not work on a new variant, according to the AFP news agency.
WHO experts are expected to meet on Monday to discuss the vaccine already facing questions about its efficacy for over-65s.