São Tomé and Príncipe has fully vaccinated 10% of its population against COVID-19, reaching the September global target by the World Health Organization (WHO) aimed at widening and accelerating vaccination and helping to turn the tide against the pandemic.
"We are enchanted that São Tomé and Príncipe has reached this important target in time for the end of September deadline," said WHO Representative Dr. Anne Ancia in São Tomé and Príncipe. "It shows great political leadership from the highest level, very hard work and dedication from the professionals involved in the administration of the vaccine, and commitment from the people of the country to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19."
In May 2021, WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, set the global target of 10% of the populations of all countries to be inoculated by the end of September; 40% by the end of December; and 70% by mid-2022.
São Tomé and Príncipe has so far received a total of 197 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines - 48 500 of these from The COVAX Facility, a multilateral initiative aimed at guaranteeing global access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, 49 000 doses came from the Republic of Portugal and just recently 100 000 were offered by the Republic of China. Of these, the country has administered 91457 doses, and therefore fully vaccinating 22 120 persons of its 220 000 people and vaccinating another 66202 persons with the vaccine's first doses.
From the beginning of the pandemic, the country has been working very hard to ensure the protection of its people from this deadly disease. When vaccines started to be safe, effective and available, Sao Tome and Principe was among the first African countries to be considered ready to start a vaccination campaign, and to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility. Since 15 March 2021, professionals from the Ministry of Health, supported by partners, have been working relentlessly to administer the available vaccines, starting with the most at risk: - the professionals at the front line of the response and - the people with highest probability to develop the severe forms of the disease. It is the country's determination that have allowed to reach the 10% target set by WHO. The next step is to speed and expand vaccination so that the next target: vaccinating 40% of the population by December 2021 can also be reached. Actually the Ministry of Health aims to vaccinate 70% of the population by March 2022.
The global targets have been set to reach critical milestones in countries' COVID-19 vaccine responses. 10% of the population inoculated should offer protection to the most vulnerable; 40% should keep priority populations such as health care workers, older people, and people with comorbidities safe, and 70% will reopen societies and economies.
Almost 90% of high-income countries have now reached the 10% target, and more than 70% have reached the 40% target. Among those however, only 16 countries on the African continent achieved the first target and three countries have achieved 40% target.
Crippling vaccine supply shortages in Africa from April to July caused 2021 uncertainty and insecurity among countries, ultimately impacting on their vaccine uptake. Coupled with operational bottlenecks and some measure of vaccine hesitancy, only 60 million people in Africa, or 4.3% of the population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of XX September 2021.
Despite challenges, many countries adopted innovative and flexible vaccine delivery strategies in a bid to get as many jabs into arms as possible.
In addition to the country hard work in leading the vaccination battle, we also have to thank all the partners who have helped the country reach the 10 % target: WHO, GAVI, UNICEF, CEPI and all COVAX partners around the world, the World Bank, the Republic of Portugal and of China who have offered vaccines and the African Union which will provide an additional 150 000 doses of vaccines in the weeks to come. It is by working together that targets can be met, and that people in Sao Tome and Principe as in the rest of the world can be protected.