The arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in Yemen on Wednesday has been hailed by health experts as a “gamechanger” in the fight against coronavirus spread in the war-torn country.
The 360,000 doses were shipped through the COVAX Facility, the global equity initiative, and will enable health workers and other priority populations to be protected against the disease.
“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine doses is a critical moment for Yemen”, said Philippe Duamelle, Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a COVAX partner along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
“As COVID-19 continues to claim lives around the world, Yemen now has the capacity to protect those most at risk, including health workers, so that they can safely continue to provide life-saving interventions for children and families”, he added. “Vaccines work, vaccines save lives, now let’s start getting people vaccinated.”
Important first step
The AstraZeneca vaccines sent to Yemen were manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and are the first batch of 1.9 million doses the country will initially receive throughout the year.
They were accompanied by 13,000 safety boxes and 1.3 million syringes, both critical for safe and effective inoculation.
Dr Adham Ismail, WHO Representative in Yemen, described the shipment as an “important first step” in combatting COVID-19.
“It will help save lives, including those at highest risk of serious disease, and will help protect the health system”, he said. “These safe and effective vaccines will be a gamechanger, but for the foreseeable future we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds.”
The GAVI country manager in Yemen, Rehan Hafiz, looked forward to the launch of the vaccination campaign.
“Thanks to the work of the Government of Yemen and of the COVAX partners, and with the support of our donors, we are now able to protect our most vulnerable populations”, he said. “Our work is only just beginning but the arrival of the first COVAX COVID-19 doses is a major milestone for Yemen.”