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Yemen Starts COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

Yemen Starts COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

Tuesday, 20 April, 2021 - 17:00
Minister of Civil Service Abdul-Nasser al-Wali, receives the AstraZeneca vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a medical center in Aden, Yemen April 20, 2021. (Reuters)

Yemen’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign began in government-held areas on Tuesday three weeks after the first shipment from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme arrived in the war-torn country.

Yemen on March 31 received 360,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, part of a consignment from COVAX expected to total 1.9 million doses this year.

The campaign kicked off in the southern port city of Aden, the government’s interim capital in a six-year-old war.

The health minister and the Yemen representative for UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, Philippe Duamelle, received shots in a show of confidence in the vaccine.

Duamelle said frontline workers, the elderly and those with certain health problems would be prioritized.

There has been a dramatic spike in confirmed and suspected new coronavirus infections in Yemen since mid-February, further straining a health system battered by war, economic collapse and, recently, a shortfall in humanitarian aid funding.

The government’s health ministry has previously said the COVAX vaccines will be free, and distributed across the country. COVAX is co-led by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization to provide COVID vaccines to low-income countries.

Tuesday’s rollout covered only government-held parts of the country, said Ishraq al-Seba’ei who is with the government’s emergency coronavirus committee. But she said 10,000 doses are being sent to Sanaa via the World Health Organization.

A UNICEF official said no vaccinations had yet taken place in areas held by the Iran-backed Houthi militias.

Yemen’s emergency coronavirus committee registered 42 confirmed cases and six deaths on Tuesday. It has recorded 5,858 coronavirus infections and 1,132 deaths so far though the true figure is widely thought to be much higher as the war has restricted COVID-19 testing and reporting.

The Houthis have provided no figures since a couple of cases last May.

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