Africa

Eswatini launches nationwide COVID vaccination rollout

Health minister says government to administer over 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in next 4 weeks

Phathizwe Zulu   | 04.08.2021
Eswatini launches nationwide COVID vaccination rollout

MANZINI, Eswatini

Residents of Eswatini aged over 40 queued in long lines Tuesday, waiting to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as the third wave of the pandemic hits the tiny kingdom hard.

It follows an announcement by the Health Ministry the previous day that those eligible must be 40 or above who were not covered in the first round of the COVID vaccine drive.

Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi on Monday announced a nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout following a targeted vaccination program that began in March this year.

Nkosi said the public would be informed of the next population group scheduled for vaccination on a weekly basis.

"The Ministry of Health is pleased to announce a schedule for the vaccination exercise starting tomorrow, Tuesday,” she said in a press statement.

"All Swazis 18 years of age and above are encouraged to pre-register for vaccination using the following link: eswatinihealth.org," the minister said.

While receiving the US vaccine donation last week in the capital, Mbabane, Nkosi said the vaccines would help protect people from severe illness and reduce deaths due to COVID-19.

"Most importantly, these vaccines will enable us to cover nearly 30% of the country’s population, a significant increase from the current coverage of nearly 4%," she said.

"As we struggle for access to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, the value of this donation is indescribable to the kingdom of Eswatini and in Africa as we seek to increase the proportion of the population that is protected.”

On the same occasion, the US ambassador to the kingdom, Jeanne Maloney, acknowledged the tedious exercise to purchase the vaccines but promised close cooperation with the government in the exercise.

"We know that the Ministry of Health has been poised to purchase and receive vaccinations for weeks and that the global availability of vaccines has been extremely limited. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the ministry," she said.

The vaccines arrived in Eswatini on July 27 through the COVAX Facility and are part of the 80 million announced by US President Joe Biden in May that his administration pledged to share with other countries battling the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Khethiwe Dlamini stood patiently in a long queue at one of the vaccination centers in Manzini, braving the chilly weather and undisturbed by the negative news associated with the vaccine because she has lost relatives due to COVID-19.

"I am grateful to the Americans for caring for the Swazis. We hope our lives will be safe from the pandemic," she said.

However, other Swazis remain skeptical about the vaccination program and their views have religious eschatological undertones, including Vika Shongwe.

"This is the mark of the beast. All the vaccine protocols and regulations are the exact things revealed by the bible. We might die after two years of taking it," he said.

According to a health update released by the government, a total of 38,734 people have received their first dose and around 28,674 people have been fully vaccinated.

Confirmed cumulative cases total 26,628, while the kingdom recorded around 408 new cases Monday and eight deaths, taking the death toll to 806.

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