Burundi launches Covid-19 vaccination, leaving Eritrea behind

BURUNDI – Burundi on has rolled out its first COVID-19 vaccines, months after most African countries, the latest step in the East African nation’s shift towards a more active approach to containing the pandemic.

Burundi was among three other nations globally that were yet to offer Covid-19 vaccines. Following the step by Burundi, only North Korea and the Horn of Africa nation of Eritrea are yet to administer any COVID-19 vaccines, according to the World Health Organization.

Burundi’s previous government under the late President Pierre Nkurunziza had been criticized for taking the pandemic lightly.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who took office in June 2020 after Nkurunziza’s death, promised a more proactive approach in combating the virus.

The vaccination campaign began after Burundi received a half-million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. Targeted groups for the doses are health workers, the elderly and people with incurable diseases, Health Minister Thaddee Ndikumana said last week.

The country received its first batch of vaccines on Thursday after a major about-turn by the government. The East African country, whose leaders had previously downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, took delivery of 500,000 donated doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine at a ceremony in the economic capital Bujumbura.

Burundi’s change of heart leaves the largely closed-off nation of Eritrea as the only African country that has yet to launch vaccination campaigns, while North Korea insists it has no cases of the disease and has rejected any vaccines.

Burundi only rarely makes public announcements about COVID-19 infection data but according to the latest figures reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has recorded 19,441 confirmed cases with 14 deaths.

The vaccine drive accompanies other measures introduced as part of a new six-month COVID-19 response plan in the country of 12 million people.

The government is introducing a health pass from November 1, with all people travelling inside the country from Bujumbura the lakeside city hardest hit by the virus obliged to have a COVID-19 test and carry a certificate.

This comes as more vaccines continue to flock the continent in form of donations and purchases. For instance, Ghana’s robust COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues to receive a boost with donations through the COVAX Facility.

The Ministry of Health has in the past few weeks, taken delivery of more than 2 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccines from the Governments of Germany, Denmark, Iceland, Norway with Germany contributing the largest single consignment of over 1.5 million doses.

In the same note, Senegal, yesterday received 298,700 additional doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, donated by the Government of Portugal through the COVAX facility.

Through this mechanism, Senegal has already received several batches of vaccines from the United States, France, China, the United Kingdom, Belgium and now from Portugal.

This new batch will increase the availability of vaccines and will allow to scale up vaccinations in the country. As of October 17, 2021, more than 1.279.885 million people have been vaccinated in Senegal.

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