340,000 doses of COVAX vaccines due in Rwanda today

Air freight carrying the AstraZeneca/Oxford SII vaccines supplied through the COVAX Facility arrives in Kigali. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines expected to arrive later today

03 March 2021
Airplane carrying the vaccines lands

KIGALI, 03 March 2021 – Health workers and other priority populations vulnerable to COVID-19 can now expect to receive life-saving coronavirus vaccines in Rwanda as 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India were delivered by UNICEF on behalf of the COVAX Facility.

Rwanda is also set to receive 102,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine later today as part of the distribution of 1.2 million doses procured from the manufacturer by COVAX, becoming the first African country to receive these vaccines through COVAX.

To date, over 19,000 Rwandans have been infected by COVID-19 and 265 lives have been lost. After close to a year of periodic lockdown restrictions and other prevention measures such as school closures that have had a devastating impact on the local economy and social fabric of the country, the arrival of the vaccines marks the much-anticipated beginning-of-the-end of the pandemic.

“Immeasurable efforts have gone into ensuring that the support system is in place for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines.  The Ministry of Health has a plan to vaccinate frontline health workers and other sections of the society in Rwanda at high risk of COVID-19 as part of the first wave of vaccinations.”

“Congratulations to the Government and people of Rwanda upon this historic moment. Children, women, and men all over the country can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Rwanda has taken its first steps towards recovering from the pandemic,” said the UNICEF Representative in Rwanda Ms. Julianna Lindsey. 

The shipment of the vaccines to Rwanda is part of groundbreaking efforts by COVAX to deliver close to 2 billion doses of COVID 19 vaccines globally in 2021 including at least 1.3 billion to the 92 economies eligible for support through the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC)*. It marks the continuation of what will be the most extensive and fastest global procurement and supply of vaccines in history.

“Today’s shipment as well as other up-coming shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to Rwanda is a result of the Government’s strong commitment and efforts to protect people living in the country” said the World Health Organization Representative in Rwanda, Dr Kasonde Mwinga. Dr Mwinga added that along with other COVID-19 response measures, the vaccines will help save lives, stabilize health systems and drive economic recovery. WHO looks forward to Rwanda kicking off its vaccination campaign across the country.

An extensive rollout programme to inoculate around 30 per cent of the population by the end of 2021 and reach 60 per cent of the total population by the end of 2022 will be underway in Rwanda. First in line to receive the vaccines will be health workers, other frontline workers, the elderly, those with non-communicable diseases, refugees, inmates and teachers.

“The first arrivals of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Rwanda represents the start of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide,” says Rachel Belt, Senior Country Manager for Rwanda at Gavi.

“We recognize the significant preparation and effort undertaken by the Government of Rwanda to ensure at-risk populations are prioritized and reached with COVID-19 vaccines.”

COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, CEPI, working in partnership with UNICEF.  The COVAX Facility is the global pooled procurement mechanism for COVAX, which is working to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to 190 participating countries and economies.


Note to Editor

* The Gavi COVAX AMC is the COVAX Facility’s mechanism to provide donor-funded vaccines to lower-income countries.

About COVAX  

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 developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.  

CEPI is focused on the COVAX vaccine research and development portfolio: investing in R&D across a variety of promising candidates, with the goal to support development of three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to countries participating in the COVAX Facility. As part of this work, CEPI has secured first right of refusal to potentially over one billion doses for the COVAX Facility to a number of candidates, and made strategic investments in vaccine manufacturing, which includes reserving capacity to manufacture doses of COVAX vaccines at a network of facilities, and securing glass vials to hold 2 billion doses of vaccine. CEPI is also investing in the ‘next generation’ of vaccine candidates, which will give the world additional options to control COVID-19 in the future.   

GAVI is focused on procurement and delivery for COVAX: coordinating the design, implementation and administration of the COVAX Facility and the Gavi COVAX AMC and working with its Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery. The COVAX Facility is the global pooled procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines through which COVAX will ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all 190 participating economies, using an allocation framework formulated by WHO. The COVAX Facility will do this by pooling buying power from participating economies and providing volume guarantees across a range of promising vaccine candidates. The Gavi COVAX AMC is the financing mechanism that will support the participation of 92 low- and middle-income countries in the Facility, enabling access to donor-funded doses of safe and effective vaccines. Gavi is fundraising for the COVAX AMC, and funding UNICEF procurement of vaccines as well as partners’ and governments work on readiness and delivery, including support cold chain equipment, technical assistance, syringes, vehicles, and other aspects of the vastly complex logistical operation for delivery. UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) will be acting as procurement coordinators for the COVAX Facility, helping deliver vaccines to COVAX AMC participants and others. 

WHO has multiple roles within COVAX: It provides normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, R&D, allocation, and country readiness and delivery. Its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization develops evidence-based immunization policy recommendations. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) / prequalification programmes ensure harmonized review and authorization across member states. It provides global coordination and member state support on vaccine safety monitoring. It developed the target product profiles for COVID-19 vaccines and provides R&D technical coordination. WHO leads, together with UNICEF, the Country Readiness and Delivery workstream, which provides support to countries as they prepare to receive and administer vaccines. Along with Gavi and numerous other partners working at the global, regional, and country-level, the CRD workstream provides tools, guidance, monitoring, and on the ground technical assistance for the planning and roll-out of the vaccines. Along with COVAX partners, WHO has developed a no-fault compensation scheme as part of the time-limited indemnification and liability commitments. 

UNICEF is leveraging its experience as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world and working with manufacturers and partners on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as freight, logistics and storage. UNICEF already procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. In collaboration with the PAHO Revolving Fund, UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines for COVAX. In addition, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are working with governments around the clock to ensure that countries are ready to receive the vaccines, with appropriate cold chain equipment in place and health workers trained to dispense them. UNICEF is also playing a lead role in efforts to foster trust in vaccines, delivering vaccine confidence communications and tracking and addressing misinformation around the world. 

About the ACT-Accelerator

The Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.

The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organisation but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organisations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organisations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.

The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation.

About GAVI

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 822 million children – and prevented more than 14 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.

About WHO

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.
For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedInTikTok,  PinterestSnapchatYouTube


Media contacts

Rajat Madhok
Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships
Tel: +250 788 301 419
Gasherebuka Jean Bosco
Health Promotion Officer
WHO Rwanda


UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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