Somalia on Monday received the first shipment of 300,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 in the Horn of Africa nation.
The health ministry said the first shipment will target frontline workers, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions and aims to reduce deaths and diseases caused by the pandemic.
“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,” Fawziya Abikar Nur, minister of health and human services said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.
“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,” Nur added.
The minister said the government has secured enough vaccines from the COVAX Facility to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the population.
Nur said the government is in the process of assessing ways of providing vaccines for more people.
“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 roll-out of the vaccination will be a landmark step in Somalia’s fight against COVID-19,” she said.
She said Somalia has recorded 8,946 confirmed COVID-19 cases including 349 deaths since March 2020.
From Feb. 1 to 22 this year, a total of 1,432 new cases and 76 deaths were reported in Mogadishu alone. This, the officials said, has been the largest increase in a week since May-June 2020 when the epidemic peaked at between 500-600 cases a week.
James Swan, UN secretary-general’s special representative for Somalia said the world body is ready to support the Somali authorities for the COVAX vaccine roll-out.
“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 towards peace and stability,” Swan said.
The vaccine, which has been validated by WHO for emergency use and is licensed to the Serum Institute of India, only requires standard refrigeration which makes it easier to transport and store.
To create awareness among families on the importance of being vaccinated against the virus, 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.