KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Rwanda on Wednesday received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the global COVAX initiative, with shots set to begin on Friday for the most vulnerable citizens in the country of 12 million people.
Rwanda received 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 102,960 Pfizer doses expected later Wednesday.
Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said the country’s target is to vaccinate 30% of the population by the end of this year, and 60% by the end of 2022.
With each person receiving two doses for full protection, these first vaccines will target 171,480 people identified as priority risk groups, including frontline workers, those above 65 and people with underlying health conditions, the minister said.
Kasonde Mwinga, the World Health Organization country representative, said Rwanda has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with determination to suppress the spread of the virus and save lives.
Rwanda has recorded 19,111 cases and 265 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
Rwanda is receiving vaccines for free through the COVAX initiative, which is led by the WHO, vaccine group Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
But COVAX, formed to ensure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the overall campaign to secure vaccines has been extremely uneven, with most worldwide doses administered in a small number of richer countries.