Through the UN-led vaccine initiative COVAX, Sudan and Rwanda have become the latest beneficiaries to receive the lifesaving COVID-19 inoculation, UN agencies reported on Wednesday.
In a boost for equitable distribution in Africa, 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shots touched down in Khartoum, making Sudan the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to receive the vaccine, according to a press release from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
This delivery follows the arrival on 26 February, of 4.5 metric tons of syringes and safety boxes – funded by GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and delivered by UNICEF.
Meanwhile, Rwanda also received 240,000 doses from the same manufacturer and anticipates 102,000 more shots from Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA, which is set to arrive on Wednesday, the UN agency said.
Both African nations will launch vaccine drive that will initially target essential health workers and vulnerable groups.
“Our hope in recovery from the pandemic is through the vaccines”, said Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Sudan, adding that they “have reduced the scourge of numerous infectious diseases, saved millions of lives and have effectively eliminated many life-threatening diseases” .
Calling it an “historic moment”, Julianna Lindsey Children, UNICEF Representative in Rwanda, stressed that “women, and men all over the country can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Rwanda has taken its first steps towards recovering from the pandemic”.
“The World Health Organization is pleased to be part of this milestone for the COVID-19 response in Sudan”, said Nima Saeed Abid, WHO Representative in Sudan, adding that “vaccines work and vaccines should be for all”.
She further underscored that “vaccinations only work as part of a comprehensive approach – they are only one tool in our arsenal against the virus and are most effective when combined with all other public health and personal prevention strategies”.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), GAVI and the WHO, working in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, manufacturers and civil society organizations, and others.