The vaccines came in two batches; 240,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses that were delivered in the morning and 102,960 Pfizer vaccine doses which were received late on Wednesday.
The two consignments are part of the 1.2 million doses the country ordered from Covax which will be key to the country’s ambition of vaccinating at least 30 per cent of its population by the end of 2021.
With this delivery, Rwanda has joined a few other countries that have so far received their consignments of Covid-19 shots through the Covax facility, as the race by low income countries to access the vaccine accelerates.
For Rwandans, arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine is probably the most exciting development.
Here are the 10 things you should know:
1. How many vaccine doses are currently in the country?
A total of 342,960 shots arrived in the country on Wednesday. From the doses, a total of 171,480 people identified as high risk groups will be inoculated.
Out of the 342,960 doses, a total of 240,000 shots are from the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, while the rest of the doses are Pfizer vaccines.
2. Who will be vaccinated first?
First, the country will start its vaccination exercise with front-line workers in healthcare, including those working in Covid treatment centres and intensive care units.
According to Minister of Health, Dr Daniel Ngamije, other priority groups are people above 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
“Many of these people have been mapped out and will each be informed on when they will receive their doses,” Ngamije said in his address to the media.
3. When will vaccination begin?
Rwanda will kick off the vaccination drive on Friday, March 5.
According to the Ministry of Health, after offloading the consignment, the vaccines will be transferred to the Rwanda Biomedical Center, (RBC), the government’s main vaccine warehouse, before they can be dispatched to the district hospitals on Thursday, March 4.
4. What will the vaccine distribution plan look like?
Minister Ngamije told The New Times that all directors of district hospitals convened at the national vaccine warehouse in Kigali on Wednesday, March 3.
“As we speak now all the hospital directors are in Kigali ready to pick the vaccines according to standards that are allocated to the respective hospitals.”
He added, “Of course in each district we know how many people are going to receive the jab. Recipients will be informed by their districts and they should reach out to the nearest health centre.”
From the district hospitals, vaccines will be transferred to all the 508 health centres in the country.
“Vaccination exercises will take place in hospitals as well as health centres,” he said.
5. How will the jab be administered?
The vaccine will be administered as an injection in the arm. It will be split into a dose of two injections and they will be administered three weeks apart.
6. In case of side effects, what happens?
The New Times understands that recipients of the vaccines in some cases demonstrate various side effects, which in turn need monitoring by health authorities.
“This is something we are aware of and have planned for. From all hospitals we have deployed teams that will closely monitor these cases,” a source from the Covid-19 task force told The New Times.
“Though many side effects are normal especially fever, nausea, body weakness among others. Ordinarily, they will take three to four days, our plan is to look out for people who exceed these days and they will be assisted accordingly.”
7. If someone is vaccinated,do they need to wear masks or socially distance?
Following the vaccine’s arrival, Ngamije gave a stern warning to the public that it is time Rwandans dispel the myth that recipients of the vaccine are exempt from observing Covid-19 protocols.
He explained that for someone to be immune to the novel coronavirus, they have to take a jab two times.
“It can take a month or more than three weeks for a recipient to receive all the two doses. Therefore they are not immune to the virus and they are still exposed. This is why we encourage the public to observe Covid-19 prevention measures such as proper wearing of face masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowded areas among others.”
8. When will the next consignment arrive?
The country will next week receive another bunch of 500,000 vaccine shots, according to the minister.
It is not clear which type of the vaccines but The New Times can confirm the new consignment will also be under the Covax facility.
This, according to Ngamije will allow the government to cover a larger population.
“We also expect more in coming months. The numbers of recipients will increase proportionally to the number of doses we acquire.”
9. Other channels to procure vaccines
To get more doses, the government has engaged the African Union (AU) on the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines as part of the efforts to tame the pandemic.
The Ministry of Health says it is looking at AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) for additional vaccine doses, as it takes effort to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population by the end of 2022.
10. Over 7.8 million to be vaccinated by the end of June next year
Minister Ngamije revealed that the country is optimistic it will have vaccinated some 7.8 million people representing 60 per cent of the population by June, next year.