ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Hoping to curb a recent spike in infections, Ethiopia kicked off its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Saturday.
Jabs were administered in several major cities, including the capital Addis Ababa, where top government officials and UN representatives attended a ceremony at the Eka General Hospital.
Doctors, nurses, and support staff at the hospital, one of Ethiopia’s main COVID-19 treatment centers, were given shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Ethiopia received its first batch of 2.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week under the COVAX initiative, a project co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that aims to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines around the world.
Speaking at the ceremony, Education Minister Getahun Mekuria said Ethiopia has been experiencing an alarming increase in infections over recent days.
“Negligence is costing the nation dearly,” he warned.
According to official data, Ethiopia’s COVID-19 case count is now over 172,500, including more than 2,500 fatalities and close to 142,000 recoveries.
Authorities have sounded the alarm over declining treatment capacity in hospitals, with more than 600 intensive care units across the Horn of Africa nation still full of COVID-19 patients.
The minister said the country’s first coronavirus case was detected exactly a year ago – a Japanese educator who came from Burkina Faso.
“Today, more than 2,200 people have died due to the virus, and over 10,000 families have been directly affected by these deaths,” he said.
Dereje Deguma, the country’s deputy health minister, spoke about how Ethiopia has worked hard to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“A year ago, our COVID-19 capacity was nil,” he said, referring to the fact that Ethiopia had no testing facilities and had to send specimens to South Africa.
“Today, we have tested more than 2.2 million people using our own laboratories.”
Boureima Hama Sambo, the WHO representative in the country, also lauded Ethiopia’s efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
“COVID-19 has affected all aspects of our lives. Globally, its impact on the economy and the society is something that we will have to deal with in the years to come; and Ethiopia is no exception,” he said.
“As a result of the high level of commitment from the government and the Health Ministry, Ethiopia has done well in mitigating the consequences of the pandemic.”
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