Rolling out COVID-19 vaccines in Rwanda

Kigali – Forty-eight hours after Rwanda received shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccinations began in earnest, with high-risk population given priority. The country plans to vaccinate a third of the population in 2021 and double that figure next year.

On 3 March, Rwanda received 240 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines through the COVAX Facility - a platform co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and WHO in partnership with UNICEF. - began deliveries to Africa. So far 44 African countries have received COVID-19 vaccines and 32 of them started vaccinations.
Rwanda enhanced its cold-chain system in readiness to launch vaccination. The country now has a capacity to store about 300 000 vaccine doses thanks to five new ultra-cold refrigerators – one of the key readiness measures to acquire, store and distribute the vaccines.
On 4 March, all the doses received had been dispatched to the 50 referral and district hospitals across the country. From districts the vaccines were then distributed to 508 health centres. In previous vaccination for diseases affecting children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and the general population, Rwanda has been able to record 95% coverage.

Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije received the first dose at the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination on 5 March. Within three weeks, over 348 000 people had received their first dose.
Rwanda also received 102 960 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. India also supplied Rwanda with 50 000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine doses. Vaccinations were carried out in public health facilities. Health workers – both from the public and private sectors – were vaccinated in public health facilities.

Additional vaccination posts were set up to ease access for vulnerable and high-risk groups. Traders were vaccinated in markets and elders brought to arenas in the capital Kigali.
Health workers are among the high-risk population groups being given priority vaccinations. The country has recorded over 22 000 COVID-19 cases. “As frontline [health workers] we face high risks of exposure. Everyone we treat is a potential COVID-19 patient. I’m happy I was vaccinated. Now even if I get COVID-19 at least I won’t be very ill,” said Olive Nyiramuhirwa Muyumbu on being vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccination campaign also targeted people with disabilities, those with chronic health conditions and people aged 65 and above. Rwanda plans to vaccinate 30% of the population by the end of 2021 and 60% by the end of 2022.”
The Minister of Health has stressed that even as vaccinations are underway, people must continue to observe preventive measures that have been critical in limiting COVID-19 infections.
Rwanda has now exhausted its initial vaccine supplies and expects 200 000 more doses via the COVAX Facility. The World Health Organization has called for vaccine equity and addition supplies to Africa to maintain the momentum built following the delivery of the initial COVAX-funded vaccines to the continent.
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