First COVID-19 vaccination phase to cover 20% of Rwanda population-Minister

On 14 December 2020 at 09:57

Rwanda is getting prepared to use COVID-19 vaccine once it is approved and availed to the market and ready for universal distribution, the Minister of Health, Dr Ngamije Daniel has said, noting that Rwanda respected the 7th December 2020 deadline during which countries were supposed to have expressed interest in acquiring Coronavirus vaccine.

Rwanda has been allotted vaccine capable of covering 20% of the total population in the first phase.

The vaccines will be distributed by COVAX, a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine producers to provide countries worldwide with equitable access to safe and effective vaccine once licensed and approved.

Health practitioners, patients with incurable diseases like blood pressure, diabetes and asthma among other respiratory diseases will be among the first group to be vaccinated in the first phase along with elders above 65 years and people whose line of duty puts them in a susceptible position.

Rwanda has already submitted in her request for the vaccine and currently in the process of identifying the targeted population.

In an exclusive interview, Dr Ngamije has explained that vaccine covering 20% of the 12.7 million people in Rwanda will be covered in the first phase.

“We are only allowed to access vaccine for 20% of 12.7 million people in Rwanda. But we are also mobilizing for funds so that we can raise the targeted quota from 20% to 60% at the least,” he said.

The vaccine has not yet been approved and not ready for distribution.

Dr Ngamije explained that the first batch of vaccine would at least be available towards the end of March next year and the access will improve gradually as manufacturers increase production.

“I cannot tell you exactly when the next 40% vaccination will be covered but we target for it to be done before the end of next year,” he revealed.

The vaccine in the first phase will be donated for free but individual countries will finance themselves in the subsequent shipments.

Dr Ngamije has revealed that the Ministry has not yet established the exact amount of money to be spend on the vaccination efforts.

“There are vaccines requiring single or double administration. The cost might be in the range of about US$15 million to vaccinate 60% of the population but it might go up or down depending on the type of vaccine delivered,” he said.

Most of vaccines in the final phase of testing before approval and distribution are believed to build strong immune defense systems after double administration.

They are all subject to special storage and transportation conditions. Some require storage conditions with temperature ranging between 2 and 8 degrees celsius, while others require storage at zero degrees celsius or below.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate from Oxford University can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, not needing the supercool storage the Pfizer vaccine requires.

Moderna vaccine manufactured in America is expected to remain stable at standard refrigerated conditions of 2° to 8°C for up to 30 days within the 6-month shelf life.

Pfizer or BionTech vaccine already in use in the United Kingdom set conditions for storage in standard refrigerated conditions of 70 Celsius degree while Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine can be stored under same conditions as AstraZeneca.

Health experts show that poor countries or majority of African countries might choose AstraZeneca with moderate storage conditions.

Dr Ngamije has explained that Rwanda might opt for AstraZeneca vaccine which is easily maintained like other vaccines already available in the country.

Rwanda confirmed the first COVID-19 patient on 14th March 2020.

Since then, 6349 people have tested positive out of 657,995 sample tests of who 5,789 have recovered, 507 are active cases while 53 have succumbed to the virus.

Dr Daniel Ngamije explained that the first batch of vaccine would at least be available towards the end of March next year.