KABUL, Afghanistan 

Afghanistan on Sunday received 500,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from India, health officials said.

The India-made vaccine, locally known as Covishield, is the first to reach Afghanistan. It is being produced by the Serum Institute for mid- and low-income countries.

Talking to reporters at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport after receiving the consignment, Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, head of the immunization drive at the Health Ministry, said frontline health care staff, followed by security forces and civil servants, will be the first to be inoculated after emergency approval from the World Health Organization (WHO).

He hoped for the UN health agency’s nod this month, adding that more doses are expected to arrive from China through COVAX, a WHO-led initiative for equitable access to safe vaccines for all countries.

Acting Health Minister Waheed Majroh said these doses will immunize 250,000 Afghans as each person will receive two shots.

“Vaccines have been ordered for 20% of the country’s population, and doses for another 40% will be provided by our international health partners,” he told the media.

Majroh said the vaccines would be stored at the Health Ministry in Kabul, which has a capacity of storing up to 5 million doses.

An online system would also be set up through which health workers could register and be included in the vaccination program, he added.

Afghanistan has had 55,359 COVID-19 cases and 2,413 related deaths, according to the Health Ministry. Only 262,891 people have been tested so far.

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