Vaccine touch-down

The arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccines in South Sudan

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
25 March 2021
Cargo being offloaded from a plane

Today the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in South Sudan. In the early morning hours, a cargo plane with 132,000 doses landed at Juba International Airport. This is the first of several vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive over the coming months to South Sudan through the support of the COVAX Facility.

In the COVAX delivery there were also 132,500 syringes and 1,325 safety boxes for the safe disposal of syringes.

Boxes on a pallet

This shipment will be used to vaccinate health care workers, including doctors, nurses, community-based health workers and social mobilisers. Also people over 65 year of age and people with co-morbidities will be prioritized, given their increased risk of severe disease and death if infected with COVID-19.



A UNICEF staff forming a heart with her finger

Health workers are prioritized because they are high at risk of contracting the virus due to their interaction with many patients and because South Sudan has no health worker to lose. Health personnel are not only involved in treating COVID-19 but all diseases affecting children in South Sudan, such as malaria, pneumonia and typhoid. 

The representative is checking the cargo

“The arrival of the vaccines is the first step towards a normal life which is an important step for children and their future, as we know they have been hit the hardest by all the COVID-19 restrictions,”

Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF South Sudan Representative.
UNICEF staff with a COVAX sign

Today’s delivery is a true team victory. The COVAX partners have worked together with the Government of South Sudan and the Ministry of health to make today happen with the support of the many COVAX donors. Today’s delivery is a strong testimony of the importance of partnerships and multilateralism which is something we need more of and not less of- a strong lessons coming out of this pandemic.

UNICEF staff and COVAX shipment


Today, UNICEF will celebrate, but 6 feet apart. Tomorrow we start preparing for the first jab.



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.