On Monday, Minister of Health, Dr. Fawsiya Abikar Nur, accompanied by the United Nations Special Representative for Somalia, Mr. James Swan, received the delivery of 30,000 doses at the Aden-Ade airport in Mogadishu.
Somalia received the first shipment of 1.2 million doses facilitated through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, produced in India, made headlines this week after health experts raised the alarm about the risk of a blood clot the vaccine can cause in women under 55.
Several European countries, including Germany, Norway, Italy and France, have temporarily suspended it so that health experts have time to verify the claims of risks to the population.
Now that experts have said the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine poses minimal health risk, countries have started using it again.
This good news was received with relief in Somalia, which lacks the health experts and laboratories capable of verifying the potential risks of the vaccine and lacks the capacity to purchase other variants from other countries.
However, the government did not wait to distribute the doses between the regions and even started administering it to the population, starting with the president on Tuesday.
The government has released a schedule for vaccine distributions in Mogadishu’s districts and is working to vaccinate on priority the most vulnerable and frontline workers.
COVID-19 has hit Somalia hard in recent weeks and is responsible for the deaths of several political figures, including the former president Ali Mahdi. So far, the number of COVID-19 cases registered in the country reached close to 10,000 of whom half of them were cured and around 450 people were recorded as died of complications.
Authorities have taken measures to contain the pandemic like closing schools and other public places, making face masks mandatory, and launching awareness campaigns on the risk of the corona virus, advocating social distancing and frequent hand washing.
In general, the measures were followed, with difficulty for some, and the police were present in the streets of Mogadishu to issue fines to violators.
Due to the fragmentation of the country, and the fact that some local authorities, such as in the North, do not follow the directives of the federal health ministry, the challenges in containing the spread of the disease are enormous.
In Hargeysa where strong public awareness interventions are non-existent, Vice-President Abdirahman Saylici contracted the virus and shared the news with the population urging them to protect themselves.