Rwanda ready to receive vaccine amid COVID-19 spike

Health Ministry reports 194 new infections, bringing tally to 10,316

Rwanda is ready to receive, store, and administer COVID-19 vaccines, an official said on Thursday, as the country recorded the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases.

The East African country has witnessed a spike in new coronavirus cases, which health officials attribute to complacency during the festive days.

The Health Ministry late Thursday reported 194 new coronavirus cases, bringing the tally to 10,316, including 133 fatalities and 6,974 recoveries.

Hassan Sibomana, the director of the vaccination unit at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said the initial challenge of lack of capacity to store vaccines — which are require to be stored at minus 70 Celsius (minus 158 Fahrenheit) — has been addressed.

The ministry has a capacity to store about 300,000 vaccine doses, Sibomana told reporters, underlining that vaccine safety is their priority to avoid any side effects on people.

He noted that Rwanda expects to receive the first vaccine in March, and the target is to launch the vaccination program for the priority group around April 1.

Rwanda is set to purchase vaccines from AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, and Moderna, an American biotechnology firm.

Five new ultra-cold freezers worth around $50,000 were purchased while other equipments to be used to distribute the vaccines to different parts of the country are also ready, according to the Health Ministry.

The government has announced that the primary beneficiaries of the COVID-19 jab will get it free. These include health care personnel, people with comorbidities as well as the elderly aged 65 years and above.

The ministry said the government is mobilizing resources that will facilitate vaccination coverage to gradually rise from 20% to 60%.

On Jan. 5, a Cabinet meeting banned movement between the capital Kigali and other districts for 15 days in a bid to prevent further spread of COVID-19, while the country’s land borders remain closed.​​​​​​​

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