Boxes of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative arrive at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 15, 2021.
Boxes of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative arrive at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 15, 2021.

WASHINGTON - Somalia’s government on Monday announced the arrival of 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the international COVAX vaccine initiative. Inoculations could start as early as Tuesday, according to the health ministry.

This is the first batch out of 1.2 million doses Somalia will receive to vaccinate 600,000 frontline workers and members of other vulnerable groups, said the World Health Organization. The WHO facilitates COVAX, designed to obtain and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally.   

“The first consignment of vaccines targets, as recommended by the COVID-19 National Task Force, the country’s frontline workers, elderly and people with chronic health conditions and it aims to reduce deaths and diseases caused by COVID-19,” the Somali government and the United Nations office in Somalia said in a joint statement Monday. 

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Somalia also announced it has made plans to get enough vaccine from COVAX to vaccinate at least 20% of its population.  The East African nation has more than 15 million people. The government still needs to secure the funds and doses to vaccinate the rest.  

The vaccine’s arrival comes as Somalia struggles with a second wave of COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, Somalia reported 244 new confirmed cases among 2,028 tested. The government also reported 18 deaths, bringing the overall number of fatalities to 367. The total number of confirmed cases stands at 9,190.

“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines happens at a critical time as Somalia is now experiencing a new wave of the epidemic. It can only be contained if all countries stand together, Somalia included,” said Fawziya Abikar Nur, Somalia’s health minister. 

She urged health workers and others identified as high priority “to receive vaccines from this first batch.”

The U.N. office in Somalia pledged to help the government reach the most vulnerable groups and frontline workers to help contain the virus.

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