Rwanda expands COVID vaccinations to people over 18

East African nation has passed 1M vaccinations, including of frontline workers, most vulnerable, says Health Ministry

James Tasamba   | 24.08.2021
Rwanda expands COVID vaccinations to people over 18 ( Habimana Thierry - Anadolu Agency )

KIGALI, Rwanda 

Rwanda’s Health Ministry said Monday that it has started a third phase of mass COVID-19 vaccinations using the Pfizer vaccine targeting adults 18 years and over in the capital Kigali. 

The ministry expects to reach over 90% of eligible people over a two-week operation at multiple vaccination sites across the districts of Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyarugenge before extending the vaccinations to other secondary cities.

“Expanding eligibility to people 18 years and older would help to stop transmission among workers of different sectors of the economy, the majority of whom are in that age group,” said Rwandan Minister of State in Charge of Primary Healthcare Tharcisse Mpunga.

“It would help the country return to normal business activities in Kigali and secondary cities and thus boost the economy,” Mpunga added.

Mobile teams were also moving door to door to vaccinate elderly people and those with mobility challenges.

Pfizer had been found to be over 75% effective, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only 42% effective against the Indian Delta variant, which has been driving up new cases across Africa.

The minister said the vaccination campaign started with Kigali, as it is the densely populated zone in the country with the highest infection rate and he believes that this would reduce transmission to rural areas.

Kigali, which generates 50% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), has been placed under lockdown three times since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, in order to contain the virus.

Rwanda has surpassed 1 million vaccinations, including of frontline workers and the most vulnerable, according to the Health Ministry.

The country aims to vaccinate 30% of its population by the end of 2021 and 60% by June 2022.

Besides frontline personnel, including community health workers, Rwanda had lowered the eligibility for vaccination to people aged 40 years and above as well as priority risk groups such as pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and the elderly.

As of Aug.19, Rwanda had registered an accumulated tally of 81,339 COVID-19 cases with 980 fatalities since the outbreak of the virus in the country.

While the number of hospital admissions and new infections has fallen slightly, health officials say older people, who are mostly dying from COVID, were not vaccinated and efforts are being made to vaccinate them.

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