North Macedonia received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine via COVAX Facility

28 March 2021

Skopje, 28 March 2021 – Today North Macedonia received the first batch of 24,000 doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) via the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO.

“The first citizens who will be vaccinated with this first batch of doses are people with underlying health conditions and people over 75 years of age, as a risk group. The mass vaccination will start on Wednesday in the health centers. We expect to receive the remaining 76,000 AstraZeneka through the COVAX Facility in the course of April," said Venko Filipche, Minister of Health.

“The arrival of COVAX vaccines today is a significant moment for protecting better those who need them most: health and other frontline workers, older people and those suffering from chronic conditions who have been living in fear of the infection”, said Dr Jihane Tawilah, WHO representative to North Macedonia. “It is time to commend the Ministry of Health for the serious efforts to address every complex aspect of COVID vaccination and setting a flexible COVID vaccination plan. Our partners demonstrated remarkable solidarity, supporting COVAX financially, politically or locally by raising their voices in favour of the  COVAX initiative. But there is still much to do. None of us is safe until all of us are safe.”, Dr Tawilah added.

 “I am delighted that UNICEF as the COVAX partner in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, has been able to support this distribution.” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Representative. “The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the lives of children and young people, and the immunization will be an important step towards recovery including safe and full access to vital services. COVID vaccines offer hope, and as vaccines continue to be available, we must remember that preventive measures such as physical distancing, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene should continue after vaccination.”

“COVAX is not merely a tool for fair distribution of life-saving vaccines, but a strategy to rapidly contain the pandemic, save lives, protect health care systems, and restore global economies. More importantly, it is the best example of how this pandemic that affects all of us, can only be beaten if we all work together”, says Rossana Dudziak, UN Resident Coordinator in North Macedonia.

North Macedonia is part of self-financing countries and economies participating in the COVAX Facility. For these countries, the Facility serves as a critical insurance policy and by pooling resources through the Facility, participating countries and economies are essentially helping to increase the world’s chances of bringing about COVID-19 vaccines. 

As the largest vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries, UNICEF is coordinating and supporting the procurement, international freight, and in-country distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for COVAX Facility.

WHO has multiple roles within COVAX: It provides normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, research and development, emergency use listing, allocation, and country preparedness and delivery. WHO has been supporting North Macedonia in its vaccine readiness efforts, in preparation for this moment. This includes assisting with the development of national vaccination plan, support for cold chain infrastructure and training of vaccinators.

The United Nations recognizes the ground-breaking global collaboration underpinning COVAX, made possible by the generous support of many partners.

 COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, as well as civil society organisations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others.

The goal of the COVAX initiative is to provide nations with equitable and affordable access to safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19, regardless of their income level. 

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Irina Ivanovska
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