Rwanda: Government Pledges Safety as Covid-19 Vaccine Roll Out Nears

4 February 2021

The Ministry of Health has promised that it will undertake all necessary precautionary measures to ensure that people are safe while being vaccinated for Covid-19.

Rwanda is edging closer to getting its first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, after the COVAX facility named it among the four first African countries that will get the Pfizer vaccine.

The first consignment of the doses, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, is expected in the country "in a matter of days".

In a virtual press conference held on Thursday, February 4, Richard Mihigo, the Coordinator of Vaccine Preventable Diseases Unit at WHO African Region Office told media that Rwanda, along with South Africa, Cape Verde and Tunisia are on the verge of getting the Pfizer vaccine, having received an indicative allocation of doses from the COVAX initiative this week.

"We expect that these countries are going to introduce the vaccine in the next couple of days pending final regulatory agreements finalized between them and the vaccine manufacturers," he said.

Other African countries that subscribe to the COVAX facility received indicative allocations for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not yet got WHO's Emergency Use Listing (EUL), and this means that they may need to wait a little longer until clearance is obtained.

The EUL is a risk-based procedure for assessing and listing unlicensed vaccines, therapeutics and in vitro diagnostics with an aim of expediting the availability of these products to people affected by a public health emergency.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been given the EUL by the WHO.

Within this month, Rwanda is expected to receive 102,960 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Speaking about the development, Health Minister Daniel Ngamije could not hide his pleasure for the upcoming reception of the doses, as he also issued assurance to citizens concerning safety.

"We are extremely glad," he said.

"This is an indicator of the performance of our health sector, because we were able to meet all the tough requirements (to qualify for the vaccine). These include planning and mobilization of resources, existing of regulatory framework, service delivery, monitoring of the system," he said.

He said the country, through the Food and Drug Authority is taking necessary steps in examining the vaccines based on different international documentation reviews.

He added that Rwanda has a strong pharmacovigilance system to monitor and report any side effects from vaccines and drugs.

He also said that efforts are will be in place to sensitize people about the Covid-19 vaccine. This is in addition to the work being done to talk to medics about the vaccine.

"We also engage health personnel. Like yesterday, we had a webinar with all doctors in the country and we had chance to hear from an investigator of the Pfizer vaccine in Yale University (USA). He gave a good presentation to these medical personnel, so they can communicate to the rest of their counterparts about how the vaccine works, and so on," he said.

When the vaccine comes, the first doses of the vaccination will benefit people at high risk of the virus, for example, front-line workers in healthcare and people above 65.

Others to benefit are those whose immunity can be easily compromised like those with cancer, diabetes, HIV and other serious diseases.

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