The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, has commenced the in-country implementation of the Saving Lives and Livelihoods (SLL) initiative to accelerate COVID-19 vaccination across the country.
The Africa CDC Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative is a $1.5 billion partnership with the Mastercard Foundation launched in June 2021 to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for more than 65 million people and support the delivery of vaccines across the continent.
Previously, under the Saving Lives and Livelihoods SLL initiative’s Urgent Support program, more than 151,000 vaccine doses were delivered to Rwanda to support the country’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
This time around, a total of $2 million of the fund has been provided to kick start its implementation in Rwanda with a target to reach more than 700.000 citizens, while strengthening the cold chain capacity and bolster 21 new COVID-19 vaccination centers in the Northern, Southern and Western provinces to ensure COVID-19 vaccine accessibility and equity.
The vaccination drive, launched August 8, 2022 comes at a time when Rwanda starts vaccination roll out for children between 5 and 11 years old and administer second booster doses to people aged 60 years and above (since yesterday).
Also, Rwanda has already hit the 70% COVID- 19 vaccination target (with over 8Million having the first dose) required by the World Health Organisation (WHO) by the end of this year.
Dr. Achamyelesh Kifele Debela, Coordinator of Africa CDC Eastern Africa Regional Coordinating Centre said the initiative synergizes the efforts of the Government, Africa CDC, and other partners in increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake and there are many reasons to choose Rwanda among the initial countries in the region.
For instance, the African Union, Africa CDC, Africa Medical Agency, and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) also acknowledged Rwanda as a strategic country leading the innovative pan-African initiatives.
The country has been selected as one of the Africa Union Member States to produce the human vaccine using mRNA technology through the Partnerships for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM), with groundbreaking ceremony taking place in June 2022.
“The SLL is being launched to boost the initiatives of Rwanda to reach its target of the above on vaccination, augment access of vaccine to the rural population and support Rwanda’s great initiative of Local vaccine manufacturing,” Debela said.
COVID-19 vaccines remain a critical tool in reducing transmission and ultimately returning the economies of Africa to normal. Recognizing that the only way to end the pandemic and safeguard lives and livelihoods on the continent is to rapidly immunize a critical mass of Africans.
All African Union Member states are covered under the Africa CDC SSL initiative but each regional block is obliged to present its working plan following a detailed technical assessment and analysis and consultative country engagements conducted to prioritize areas of support and a comprehensive Country Support Program )CSP) was prepared.
Where is Rwanda?
Rwanda becomes the third country in the Eastern Africa Regional block to launch the SLL program, following Kenya and Ethiopia, and according to Debela, the next countries are Uganda, Tanzania and Comoros soon.
Dr. Hassan Sibomana, Ag, Division Manager Maternal Child Health and Community Health (MCCH) said the country has now set its eyes on a new goal of hitting 86% COVID-19 vaccination by end of year.
“This is ambitious but achievable because we have been desperately waiting for the SLL initiative to enable us. However we still have to consider gaps in mass education, data collection and logistics among others,” Sibomana said.
Officially launching the initiative, Dr. Albert Tuyishime, Head of Disease Prevention and Control Department at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) said that Africa needs vaccine equity with governance structures that emphasize the strengthening of national, regional and continental institutions.