These freezers which will be used to store Covid-19 vaccines upon arrival in the country are additional to existing ones and have the capacity to freeze vaccines at minus 40 and 86 degree Celsius.
The purchase of new vaccines is a great milestone to Rwanda’s efforts geared towards containing the spread of Covid-19 and preparations to receive store and supply the vaccines which stands at 95%.
The fridges and other equipment that will be used to transport vaccines are located in Masoro, Kigali city.
Rwanda has already expressed interest in acquiring Covid-19 vaccines expected to be distributed effective March 2021.
The fridges will not only be used to store Covid-19 vaccines but also storing existing 12 types of vaccines for children and adults.
Rwanda to administer all types of Covid-19 vaccines
The fact that some vaccines require special temperature and storage conditions raised worries that Rwanda might not receive some types of vaccines that could be easily distributed.
So far, four coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines have reached the final stages of testing, and one of the frontrunners is making progress toward the goal of proving to be safe and effective.
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 degree Celsius, while others require storage at zero degree 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.
Speaking to IGIHE recently; the Minister of Health, Dr Ngamije explained that Rwanda might opt for AstraZeneca vaccine which is easily maintained like other vaccines already available in the country.
However, newly received freezers capacitate Rwanda to receive all types of Covid-19 vaccines as confirmed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, Julien Mahoro Niyingabira.
“It means that Rwanda has capacity to receive any type of vaccine. These freezers can store Pfizer vaccines which require special temperature conditions at minus 70 degree Celsius. We are now able to receive and administer all vaccines in Rwanda given that we already have capacity to store other vaccines including Moderna and AstraZeneca,” he has told IGIHE.
New refrigerators have capacity to store 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
In December last year, the Minister of Health, Dr Ngamije Daniel told IGIHE that Rwanda respected the 7th December 2020 deadline during which countries were supposed to h 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 is currently in the process of identifying the targeted population.
At the time, Dr Ngamije 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.
Dr Ngamije explained that the first batch of vaccine would at least be available towards the end of March this year and the access will improve gradually as manufacturers increase production.
Rwanda confirmed the first COVID-19 patient on 14th March 2020. Since then, 10 316 people have been tested positive out of 779 511 sample tests of whom 6974 have recovered, 3209 are active cases while 133 have succumbed to the virus.
Coronavirus symptoms include coughing, flu, and difficulty in breathing. The virus is said to be transmitted through the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract.
Rwandans are urged to adhere to COVID-19 health guidelines, washing hands frequently using soaps and safe water, wearing face masks and respecting social distancing.