More than 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should be delivered to South Sudan by the end of the month according to a South Sudanese health ministry official.
Doctor John Rumunu, director-general for preventive health services at the national health ministry said the vaccine will first be administered to the country’s most vulnerable populations.
Rumunu told reporters in Juba Sunday that South Sudan met all of the requirements necessary to acquire the vaccine.
“I’m happy to let you know that the 864,000 doses are from AstraZeneca, and AstraZeneca is using the same chain like we are using for the routine vaccination, meaning you need fridges that can keep vaccines in conditions of two to eight degrees centigrade. We have that all over the country,” he said.
Rumunu said COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) assessed all vaccines and determined that AstraZeneca was best suited to South Sudan’s capacity to preserve the vaccine.
Concerns have been raised over the safety and efficacy of preserving COVID-19 vaccines in hot climate countries like South Sudan, concerns triggered primarily by misinformation circulating on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
Dr. Guyo Guracha, the World Health Organization’s emergency coordinator in the South Sudan capital Juba, said AstraZeneca is safe to use in South Sudan.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday it is reviewing the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in light of a South African study indicating the drug offers minimal protection against the new South Africa variant of the virus.
The study, conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand, prompted the South African government to temporarily halt its use of the vaccine.
At WHO’s usual Monday briefing at its headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the news concerning but noted what he called “some important caveats” to that development.
He said given the limited sample size of the Witwatersrand trial and the younger, healthier profile of the participants, it is important to determine whether the vaccine remains effective in preventing more severe illness.
As of Sunday, South Sudan registered 4,609 positive COVID-19 cases, 861 active cases, 66 deaths and 3,692 recoveries.