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First vaccine shipment arrives in Somalia

By OtiatoOpali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-03-17 11:25

Workers offload AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines under the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Aden Abdulle Osman Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia on March 15, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

The first shipment of 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Somalia on Monday, raising hopes that the government will contain the spread of the COVID-19 in the Horn of Africa nation. According to the health ministry, inoculations could start as early as Wednesday.

In a statement issued in Mogadishu, Fawziya Abikar Nur, Somalia's Minister of Health said the government has secured enough vaccines from the COVAX Facility to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the population.

"The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines happens at a critical time, as Somalia is now experiencing a new wave of the epidemic. It can be contained if all countries stand together, Somalia included," Nur said.

"I call on all health workers and people at high risk who have been prioritized to receive vaccines from this first batch, so we can protect our health workforce, other frontline workers, and high-risk people," she added.

Nur said to create awareness among families on the importance of being vaccinated, social mobilizers will be deployed to communities to encourage the use of the COVID-19 vaccine.They will also reinforce the importance of continuing COVID-19 prevention measures, including washing hands frequently, wearing face masks and observing physical distancing.

The UN office in Somalia pledged to help the government reach the most vulnerable groups and frontline workers to help contain the virus.

"The first consignment of vaccine targets, as recommended by the COVID-19 National Task Force, are the country's frontline workers, elderly and people with chronic health conditions to reduce deaths and diseases caused by COVID-19," the UN office in Somalia said in a statement Monday.

According to Nur, a total of 1,432 new cases and 76 deaths were reported in Mogadishu alone From Feb 1 to 22 this year. This, the health minister said, has been the largest increase since the May to June 2020 period, when the epidemic peaked at between 500 to 600 cases a week.

"We have strong systems in place to carry out immunization campaigns and enable the safe delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers. This first rollout of the vaccination will be a landmark step in Somalia's fight against COVID-19," she said.

James Swan, the UN's special representative for Somalia, said the world body is ready to support the Somali authorities in the vaccine rollout.

"We are committed to supporting the government of Somalia to reach out to the most vulnerable groups and frontline workers to ensure that spread of the virus is contained, and that Somali people recover quickly from this pandemic and the country continues making progress toward peace and stability," Swan said.

On Feb 3, Mamunur Rahman Malik, the World Health Organization head in Somalia, said the country expects to receive 1.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX Facility.

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