Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Daniel Ngamije, has said he will take the first COVID-19 vaccine to prove the efficiency.
Rwanda is one of the four countries in Africa (including South Africa, Cape Verde, Tunisia) that is expected to get over 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the first and second quarter of 2021 from the COVAX facility, a global initiative that aims at accelerating fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for every country.
Speaking at a World Health Organisation-Africa Region virtual press briefing on COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa, February 4, 2021, which tackled that issue of vaccine distribution and the hoaxes around efficiency, Ngamije said Rwanda is ready for the vaccine and as a leader he will take the vaccine to be an example.
“We have been using Webinar to engage medical personal on how the vaccine works, but we also engage leaders in community because we don’t doubt we need the vaccine,” he said.
“I will take the first vaccine to give an example,” Ngamije said.
Ngamije said that no doubt Rwanda needs the COVID-19 vaccine but to ensure its efficacy and acceptance, they will focus on engaging local leaders and medical personnel to mobilize educate and get correct information on the vaccine so as to educate others.
Ngamije stated that there is need for scientific communication within the medical personnel to give the right information so that they can be good channels to share the information with the rest of health personal and community.
“There is no doubt and we don’t expect people fearing to get this vaccine, and I will be happy to get the first shot so that, to give an example,” Ngamije told the panel which included Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa Regional Director, Khumbize Kandondo Chiponda, Minister of Health of Malawi, and Dr. Richard Mihigo, WHO Program Area Manager, Immunization and Vaccine Development.
On cases of side effects, Ngamije said that Rwanda will be transparent, engage communities and share data with citizens and will through the regulatory bodies report any side effects so that such cases are dealt with accordingly.
Rwanda had initially said that it will focus the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine on 20% of the population, however Ngamije revealed that the new plan is to purchase more vaccines to reach 60% goal.
“As we continue to vaccinate the frontline workers, it will give us the confidence to continue discussion and dialogue through African union for getting additional vaccines for us to go up to 60% of the coverage,” Ngamije said.
Ngamije noted that Rwanda will not vaccinate everybody at the same time but now needs to improve case management of people affected by COVID-19, thus a reason for investing in getting more drugs and starting soon to use Monoclonal antibodies for at least treating people in treatment centers.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said that WHO was concerned about anti-COVID-19 vaccine misinformation running around the continent, and stated that they are working to ensure people get the right info about the vaccine which already they have enough data of its efficacy and application.
“People have been positive about being vaccinated; it is only of recent that we have seen anti- vaccine campaign. So we are working with governments and relying on opinion leaders to join this campaign to give right info so that by time they get these vaccines they are aware,” Moeti said.
On the issue of China’s offer to support African countries with free COVID-19 vaccines, WHO’s Dr. Richard Mihigo said that the offer was welcomed and will add to the current global support however the drugs have to still pass candidacy evaluation before distribution.
However, Mihigo said that African countries will be supported to get COVID-19 vaccines but noted that those who can be able to finance their own COVID-19 vaccines can purchase recommended drugs without waiting.