Statement delivered by Dr Steven Velabo Shongwe, WHO Country Representative in Sierra Leone on the arrival of the first consignment of COVID-19 vaccine under the COVAX Facility 8 March 2021 – Lungi International Airport – Sierra Leone.
Hon Minister of Health and Sanitation
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors
Donors and Health development partners
Senior government official
Members of the media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Today is a historic moment for Sierra Leone. We are gathered here to witness the arrival of the first consignment of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (which is 96,000 doses) out of 528,000 doses allocated to Sierra Leone under the COVAX Facility.
The COVAX Facility through a very strong collaboration is supporting 92 low and middle-income countries including Sierra Leone, under its Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The global COVAX Facility partnership brings together Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, UNICEF and WHO.
As at 24th February 2021, the major donor governments contributing to the COVAX Facility include the USA (2.5 billion dollars), Germany (1.097 billion dollars), the UK (735 million Great British Pounds equivalent to 1.014 billion dollars), the European Commission (485 million dollars), Japan (200 million dollars) among several other governments, foundations, corporations and organizations that are support this great initiative.
Arrival of this first consignment of the vaccine provides the country with an additional public health tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial consignment of the vaccine and the immediate subsequent shipments will prioritize critical target groups such as frontline health professionals, vulnerable groups including the aged and people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and others.
Vaccines are safe and efficacious and will help save lives, reduce severity of disease, improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. Deployment of the COVID vaccine should be one of the critical measures that have to be taken in addition to the strict adherence to other public health measures such as the correct use of facemask in public, hand washing, social distancing among others.
I would like to commend the government of the republic of Sierra Leone for providing leadership in the development of the national COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan with the support of WHO, UNICEF, US CDC, World Bank and other partners. I would further like to appreciate the World Bank for providing USD 8.5 million for the vaccine rollout
I wish to thank all the collaborating partners that are supporting this vision of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to reach the most vulnerable population in Sierra Leone and the rest of the world. WHO is committed to supporting the government of Sierra Leone in the roll out the COVID-19 vaccine.