JUBA, South Sudan

Health workers and the elderly are first in line for immunization after South Sudan received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday.

A total of 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country under the COVAX initiative, the first of several shipments expected over coming months, according to Health Minister Elizabeth Achuei.

She said vaccinations will start by next week and healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, community health workers, and social mobilizers, will be prioritized, along with people aged 65 and above.

South Sudan has reported just under 10,000 infections, including 107 deaths, since registering its first case last April.

“The vaccine will help us protect our population against COVID-19 infections and prepare for a return to a normal life. We are grateful to all partners for their support in facilitating the delivery of vaccines to South Sudan,” Achuei said after receiving the shipment at Juba International Airport.

South Sudan expects to get 732,000 vaccine doses through the COVAX facility in the first six months of the year.

“We are thrilled to have received the vaccine,” said Dr. Fabian Ndenzako, the World Health Organization’s representative in South Sudan.

“The vaccine will complement, not replace, proven public health measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing, ventilation, and hand hygiene, along with robust programs to test, trace, isolate, and treat.”

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