By Simon Deng
South Sudan’s government says it is returning 72,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to the COVAX facility.
Mayen Machut Achiek, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Health said South Sudan’s Health Ministry is facing a challenge of reaching all target groups with the vaccines due to lack of funds and misinformation which is leading to vaccine hesitancy.
“In our discussio with The World Health Organization (WHO), we agreed to commit back an amount of 72,000 doses so that they are kept safely for us, we do not want to run the risk of them expiring in our hands,” Achiek told journalists in Juba on Sunday during the weekly COVID-19 briefing.
The AstraZeneca vaccines donated to South Sudan from COVAX Facility will expire on July 18th. The Health Ministry says it wants to return the vaccines before they expires so that if there are countries in need of the medicines, they can be assisted to use them.
He disclosed that the vaccines would be shipped out of the country when the available 60,000 AstraZeneca doses are used up.
“COVAX facility is very happy with that arrangement, we are tightening our belts hopefully in the next two weeks the 60,000 doses will be dispersed all over the country,” added Achiek.
According to the health ministry, the country aims to vaccinate 2.4 million people out of the country’s estimated population of 12 million.
On March 25, Juba received 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility. The country was expected to receive a total of 732,000 doses of the vaccines within the first six months of 2021.
John Rumunu, Director General for Preventive Health Service said that the country will be able utilize the 60,000 doses before their expiry in July.
He disclosed that so far 7,996 people have received their first COVID jabs including, 1,431 health workers out of the targeted 4,020.