By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan has received 132,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
This is the first of several vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive over the coming months to South Sudan through the support of the COVAX Facility.
The COVAX Facility is a global partnership comprised of Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and WHO established to ensure all countries can equitably access COVID-19 vaccines.
Health workers and the elderly are first in line for immunization after South Sudan received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday.
A total of 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country under the COVAX initiative, the first of several shipments expected over coming months.
The country’s Health Minister Elizabeth Achuei said vaccinations will start by next week and healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, community health workers, and social mobilizers, will be prioritized, along with people aged 65 and above.
However, 108 people has reported died of Covid 19, while 9,330 were recovered from 128,368 cases recorded since last April.
“The vaccine will help us 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 delivery of vaccines to South Sudan,” Achuei said after receiving the shipment at Juba International Airport.
“The arrival of the vaccines is the first step towards a normal life which is an important step for children and their future, as we know they have been hit the hardest by all the COVID-19 restrictions,” said Ms. Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF South Sudan Representative. “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.”
South Sudan expects to get 732,000 vaccine doses through the COVAX facility in the first six months of the year.
“We are thrilled to have received the vaccine,” said Dr. Fabian Ndenzako, the World Health Organization’s representative in South Sudan.
“The vaccine will complement, not replace, proven public health measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing, ventilation, and hand hygiene, along with robust programs to test, trace, isolate, and treat.”
Together with today’s COVAX shipment of vaccines, 132,500 syringes and 1,325 safety boxes for the safe disposal of syringes arrived.
Over the next several months, through to the end of 2022, South Sudan is planning to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population, as outlined in the country’s COVID-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plan.
A person being vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine requires two doses to ensure optimal immune response against the COVID-19 virus. The 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 consent prior to being vaccinated.
While COVID-19 vaccination is important to protect the most vulnerable and exposed people from getting infected and reduce morbidity and mortality, a continued adherence to preventive measures to avoid the spread of the virus by wearing facial masks and respecting social distancing remains crucial.