15 March 2021 – On the morning of 15 March 2021, a warm sun shone brightly on an airplane landing at the Mogadishu’s Adden Adde International Airport. After one year since the first COVID-19 case was officially confirmed in Somalia, on 16 March 2020, the country received part of the 300 000 doses of Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccines from the COVAX Facility, which will be rolled out in the capital city. This consignment is a first of many, and will be used to protect frontline workers across all states of Somalia, including frontline health workers, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.
Somalia’s Federal Minister of Health and Human Services HE Dr Fawziya Abikar Nur and her team received the vaccines. The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia James Swan, Deputy Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia Adam Abdelmoula, and representatives and technical teams from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the European Union Delegation to Somalia (EU) and World Food Programme (WFP) also joined the Federal Minister of Health in the historic moment.
Vaccines to contain spread of COVID-19
“This is a historic day for this country. Thanks to the vaccines received from the COVAX Facility and funding support from our partners, we can now protect the people at risk of being infected, who are working along the front lines of public service, in addition to vulnerable elderly populations,” said Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.
While we have lost many lives to COVID-19 and seen many people suffer, we have also taken huge strides in addressing this infectious disease. I commend all health workers who have helped us track, trace and test for COVID-19 cases in this country,” added Dr Malik. As of 15 March 2021, Somalia had reported 9190 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 367 deaths. Currently, the country is witnessing a new wave of the epidemic which is more severe and devastating than the last and the speed and scale with which the outbreak is evolving with this new wave has surprised all.
While calling on all frontline workers and eligible people to receive their vaccines, HE Dr Fawziya Abikar Nur added, “The vaccines have helped other countries slow down the transmission and infection rate and we are confident they will do the same for our population.”
Intense preparations under way for COVID-19 vaccinations
In preparation for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across the country, the Federal and state Ministries of Health collaborated with WHO and UNICEF to conduct intense training to acquaint technical teams and health workers on COVID-19 vaccination. Trainees had a chance to get to know the characteristics of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccines, and learn about vaccine storage, handling and delivery, waste management, injection safety, vaccine delivery strategies, dealing with adverse events following immunization, and increasing demand for and trust in vaccines. They also had the opportunity to refresh their memories on COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures. Meanwhile, in the lead up to vaccination rollout, teams of social mobilizers were also able to strategize on effective ways to engage Somali communities and other partners to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
COVAX Facility to provide more vaccines
While vaccination is expected to roll out in Mogadishu’s main hospitals this week, people from other federal states are expected to receive vaccines in districts from the week of 21 March 2021 onwards. As the Government and partners ship off additional vaccines to different states, additional flights and vehicles will deliver vaccines to the targeted populations across the country, using logistical systems set up through previous mass vaccination campaigns.
Overall, Somalia has secured enough vaccines from the COVAX Facility to vaccinate at least 20% of its population in phases. The COVAX Facility is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF, and seeks to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The Government of Somalia, with support from WHO, UNICEF and partners, is also working on ways to provide vaccines for rest of its population.