What is driving Rwanda’s stunning vaccination efforts?

On 4 January 2022 at 11:13

Rwanda is among countries achieving COVID-19 vaccination targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO) yet some developing countries still lag behind with the percentage of vaccinated population standing below 10%.

Towards the end of December 2021, Rwanda announced that it had vaccinated 41% of its population against COVID-19 surpassing the 40% target set by WHO.

Rwanda also surpassed the target set by WHO to fully vaccinate the 10% of all countries’ population by September last year. At the time, Rwanda had reached 13% of vaccination coverage.

Figures from WHO show that 8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since inoculation programs began globally. Of these vaccine doses, only 3% were delivered to Africa which slowed down the vaccination pace on the continent.

So far, over 102 million Africans corresponding to 8% have been fully vaccinated while 70% of developed countries have vaccinated 60% of their population.

As of today, Rwanda has administered the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 7,707,304 people. Among others, a total of 5,504,040 have been fully vaccinated while 196,636 received the third dose (booster dose) since the countrywide inoculation program began on 5th March 2021.

The Ministry of Health says that Rwanda has enough supply that will be used to administer the second and booster dose of COVID-19 while more doses are expected to be delivered gradually in the near future.

Secret behind speedy vaccination drive

In consideration of the aforementioned statistics, it is evident that Rwanda is among countries on the right track to meet global vaccination targets despite the fact that wealthy countries have been hoarding vaccines.

Rwanda’s commendable pace in rolling out vaccines is among topics discussed during a televised talk show aired on Sunday which revolved around the status of the pandemic.

As he appeared in the RTV talk show, Dr. Hassan Sibomana, the Head of Vaccination Program unit at Rwanda Biomedical center (RBC) said that Rwanda was initially among other countries worried over insufficiency of vaccines that would stall inoculation efforts.

He stressed that having the country securing enough vaccines resulted from different factors including political will.

“It is a very important aspect because there are requirements that should be met to roll out the inoculation program. These include the availability of vaccine doses. We are lucky enough to have visionary leadership very much concerned about the situation starting with President of the Republic who owned the issue. Considering the severity of the pandemic, it was apparent that the vaccine was the only solution to lean on,” he said.

Apart from vaccine doses received through bilateral agreements, Dr. Sibomana revealed that Rwanda also bought four million doses.

“A lot has been done. The vaccines were secured through discussions with different partners, commendable relations with wealthy nations and direct purchase. The country had purchased at least four million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of year. This has enabled us to secure a large number of vaccine doses,’’ he said.

70 percent target to be hit before June

Apart from the country’s political will; Dr. Rosette Nahimana in charge of Expanded Program on Immunization at WHO in Rwanda revealed that the country’s speedy vaccination efforts were driven by unique approach to roll out mass vaccination program countrywide.

As she explained, efficient management of vaccine doses also won donors’ trust and motivated them to continue supporting Rwanda’s vaccination drive.

“This also positioned Rwanda among first countries receiving a large number of vaccine doses because the country was committed to have them administered efficiently in the right time. So, Rwanda proved its prowess to administer vaccine doses to a large number of its population in a short time span,” she said.

“This motivated COVAX facility to distribute as many as possible vaccine doses to Rwanda. We are hopeful that all vaccines will be utilized efficiently in due course,” Dr. Nahimana added.

In May 2021, WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, set the global target of 10% of the populations of all countries to be inoculated by the end of September; 40% by the end of December; and 70% by mid-2022.

Dr. Sibomana has said that the current situation is promising that Rwanda will have vaccinated 70% of its population before June 2022.

Rwanda has been deploying helicopters to deliver vaccine doses to different parts of the country.