Rwanda received its first batch of 240,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Covax on Wednesday morning, becoming the second country in East Africa after Kenya to get the free jabs.
A consignment of some 1,020,000 vaccines arrived in Kenya on Tuesday night, a few minutes before midnight.
Covax is a global scheme procuring and distributing Covid-19 inoculations at a subsided rate for poorer countries. It is led by Gavi - the vaccine alliance, the World Health Organisation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, among others.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines were shipped from the Serum Institute of India.
Rwanda plans to roll out its inoculation exercise on Friday in hospitals and health centres across the country.
It expects a second shipment of 102,860 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, from the Covax facility, on Wednesday evening, the Health ministry said.
“We are pleased to receive these first AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines through the Covax initiative. We will immediately roll out our prepared vaccination plan, which will see target risk groups across Rwanda receive their first of two vaccine doses. Our target is to vaccinate 30 per cent of our population by the end of 2021, and 60 per cent by the end of 2022,” Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije said.
Target priority groups include frontline health workers, the elderly above 65 years, and those with underlying health conditions, with the government aiming to inoculate 171,480 people in the initial phase, the ministry said.
The vaccines will be dispatched from the Rwanda Biomedical Centre warehouse to district hospitals on Thursday and there on to 508 health centres across the country, the ministry said.
In mid-February, Rwanda rolled out vaccination of high-risk groups after receiving 1,000 Moderna doses.
Rwanda has recorded 19,111 cases of Covid-19 since March last year, with 17,472 recoveries and 265 deaths.
Kenya’s priority list
In Kenya, the vaccines will be administered at the top referral Kenyatta National Hospital this weekend, with the target groups including politicians and top government officials. Others are frontline health workers, teachers, immigration officers and members of the disciplined forces.
“It’s truly a great day for Kenya. We now have the equivalent of a bazooka or a machine gun in our fight against the virus," Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said when he received the vaccines.
Kenya plans to vaccinate in three phases 30 per cent of its population (or 15.8 million) of the total population of over 49 million by the end of June 2023.
The first phase will involve 1.25 million people between February and June 2021. Phase II, which will run between July and June 2022, will target the most vulnerable including the elderly and those above 18 years with comorbidities. It targets 9.76 million people.
The third phase will focus on ensuring equitable vaccination of other vulnerable groups of persons of 18 years and above in congregations, hospitality and tourism industry. The phase will run between July 2022 and June 2023.
Kenya has recorded 106,470 coronavirus cases since March 2020, with 1,863 deaths.
East Africa will receive close to 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the Covax facility. However, the doses are only allocated to countries that have signed up to be part of the initiative. Kenya will receive 4.2 million, Rwanda 1.1 million, Uganda 3.6 million and South Sudan 864,000.
Besides the Covax vaccines, Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) said 16 countries have expressed interest in purchasing some of the 270 million doses secured through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
By Ivan R. Mugisha, Ange Iliza, Elizabeth Merab, and Angela Oketch.