On Wednesday, February 3, 2020, Rwanda became the first African country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from the COVAX initiative.
According to the Ministry of Health, a flight carrying 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed at the Kigali International Airport in the morning hours of Wednesday and the second batch of 102,960 doses was also received on schedule.
Vaccine manufacturer, Pfizer said the first shipment of its vaccine to Africa ” is an important milestone for the region, for Rwanda, and for the global health partners working tirelessly to fight this pandemic”.
“Our goal is to make vaccines accessible worldwide and today’s delivery to Rwanda is a great step forward,” said Janine Small, Pfizer Global President for Emerging Markets, in a statement.
Recall that many African countries like Nigeria did not qualify for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as it required very strict storage conditions.
The vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures and according to an official at Rwanda’s health ministry, the received doses were “immediately transported to cold room freezers” upon arrival at Kigali aboard on a KLM flight at around 2015 local time (1815 GMT).
The health ministry said the collective 340,000 doses would be dispatched Thursday from a biomedical warehouse in Kigali to district hospitals and onward to hundreds of health centres dotted across Rwanda and vaccinations will officially begin Friday, February 5, 2021.
The ministry added that the country of 12 million is planning to inoculate 30 percent of its population this year, and 60 percent by the end of 2022 while also adding that the recent shipment would help a total of 171,500 high-risk persons.
Rwanda has carried out more than a million coronavirus tests and detected just over 19,100 cases. As of Wednesday, 265 people had died from the disease.
The East African nation was known for imposing some of the strictest anti-coronavirus measures on the continent, including one of Africa’s first total shutdowns in March 2020. It put capital Kigali back under a full lockdown in January after a surge in cases.
According to reports, based on the different build-up of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, it is reportedly likely to be more effective in protecting against the onset of Covid-19 when transmitted through the South African variant than AstraZeneca’s.