Covid-19 vaccination kicks off in Sudan

Provides hope amidst the pandemic

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
Covid-19 vaccination in Sudan, vaccination campaign, covid 19 vaccines, covax
UNICEF Sudan/2021/Yeslam
09 March 2021

The Covid-19 vaccination campaign has kicked off in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Today, the vaccines will reach the arms of frontline health care workers at the UNICEF-supported Jebra Isolation Centre, marking the official launch of the vaccination campaign. This follows the arrival of over 800,000 AstraZeneca vaccines on 3 March 2021. 

The campaign launched by the Federal Minister of Health marks the beginning of the first phase of the vaccination exercise that will target all frontline health workers who are most at risk while interfacing with patients daily and persons 45 years and above with chronic illnesses residing in states with high transmission rate. But what do the vaccines and the whole vaccination exercise mean for the people of Sudan? 

UNICEF Sudan had a conversation with Dr. Saja Farooq Abdullah the Chief of Health and Nutrition and Acting Deputy Representative and here is what she had to say:

What do the Covid-19 vaccines mean for the people of Sudan?

This time last year, families in Sudan had no hope. The pandemic had brought their lives to a standstill. But the Covid-19 vaccines are here today. They do not only signify hope but also indicate that the nation will soon return to normalcy. 

What was UNICEF’s role in ensuring Sudan receives covid-19 vaccines?

UNICEF was and remains a critical actor in Sudan’s Covid-19 response. UNICEF’s contribution towards finalization of the National Vaccine Deployment Plan, cannot not be overlooked. We worked closely with the Federal Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation and other key stakeholders in all the technical working groups to ensure the country was ready to receive the vaccines and roll it out too. 

To support country readiness, UNICEF was at the forefront to ensure all eligible persons were registered; the national cold chain system functional; risk communication and engagement activities ongoing; awareness creation drives in place to support the uptake of the vaccine but above all we supported the procurement of the vaccines, syringes and safety boxes. 

UNICEF’s strong advocacy efforts also ensured Sudan was prioritized as the first country in MENA region to receive the vaccines. 

How do you feel now that Sudan received these vaccines? 

I am very thrilled that Sudan received these life-saving vaccines. However, this is not the end. The tough job is yet to come! 

Today we officially launch the vaccination campaign starting with frontline health workers at the UNICEF-supported Jabra isolation centre in Khartoum. We will continue working closely with the Government and partners to ensure that Sudan gets additional vaccine allocations that will support the planned vaccination campaign. Our job has just begun but we are ready and up to the task. Until we reach the entire target population, we are not yet safe.

Covid-19 vaccination in Sudan, vaccination campaign, covid 19 vaccines, covax
UNICEF Sudan/2021/Yeslam

Why was it important for you to get vaccinated today?

To build trust in the vaccine as well as provide assurance of its safety among the health workers.

What are the government’s plans to ensure the vaccines reach the eligible population?

The Government categorized eligible persons in several groups and vaccination planned in two phases. Phase one will cover 3 per cent of the target population - all frontline health workers – in private and public health facilities and persons aged 45 years and above with chronic illnesses and residing in States with high transmission rates. The second phase will cater to 17 per cent of the eligible population - persons aged 45 years and above in the other States and other essential workers like schoolteachers, bankers plus refugees and internally displaced persons. 

For a smooth vaccination campaign exercise, UNICEF will continue providing technical, logistical and financial support.

Covid-19 vaccination in Sudan, vaccination campaign, covid 19 vaccines, covax
UNICEF Sudan/2021/Yeslam

Where do you see Sudan by end 2021 as far as the vaccination exercise is concerned?

Our hope is vaccinating 20 per cent of the eligible population including refugees and displaced persons by the end of 2021. But what does this entail? 

Sudan requested 17,200,000 doses and an additional 1 million doses for refugees and internally displaced persons. So far, we have received an allocation of 2.9 million doses of the AstraZenaca vaccine expected by May 2021. If all the vaccines are received, we don’t envisage stock outs for the planned vaccination campaign. Nevertheless, being a global pandemic, we will rely heavily on the global vaccine allocations and production from the COVAX Facility to realize this target.