A member of South Sudanese Ministry of Health Rapid Response Team takes a nasal sample from a woman at her home after she came into into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, in Juba, South Sudan, April 14, 2020. Photo AFP
JUBA - More than 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should be delivered to South Sudan by the end of the month according to a South Sudanese health ministry official.
Doctor John Rumunu, director-general for preventive health services at the national health ministry said the vaccine will first be administered to the country’s most vulnerable populations.
Rumunu told reporters in Juba Sunday that South Sudan met all of the requirements necessary to acquire the vaccine.
“I’m happy to let you know that the 864,000 doses are from AstraZeneca, and AstraZeneca is using the same chain like we are using for the routine vaccination, meaning you need fridges that can keep vaccines in conditions of two to eight degrees centigrade. We have that all over the country,” he said.
Rumunu said COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) assessed all vaccines and determined that AstraZeneca was best suited to South Sudan’s capacity to preserve the vaccine.
Concerns have been raised over the safety and efficacy of preserving COVID-19 vaccines in hot climate countries like South Sudan, concerns triggered primarily by misinformation circulating on social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
Dr. Guyo Guracha, the World Health Organization’s emergency coordinator in the South Sudan capital Juba, said AstraZeneca is safe to use in South Sudan.
“There should be no worry about safety and efficacy because we have an elaborate mechanism in place as WHO and the country also has its own. Many countries also will be looking at it on their own, independently,” Guracha said.
Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Loi Thuou strongly advised the public against sharing misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines on the internet.
“We need to be very careful in handling and sharing that information with, let’s say innocent people, who may not necessarily have their own analytical capacity. I mean, if someone really wanted to actually do something against Africa or black race, why should it be through vaccines?” Thuou said in Juba.
Africans are consuming many other common drugs from the Western world like malaria medications such as Artimisin, according to Thuou.
He urged South Sudanese to practice social distancing and follow other preventative measures to prevent transmission of the virus in markets and other places where people congregate.
“Part of the reason why partial lockdown is mandatory is the behavior of our people. If you go to Konyokonyo [marketplace]… before partial lockdown was declared, you will not have a sense that there’s COVID-19 in this country, people are just mingling [in the] crowd and nobody cares, hardly people wear masks,” said Thuou.
Health officials are reporting a rapid jump in the number of COVID-19 cases in parts of South Sudan, particularly Central Equatoria state, which in recent days reported more than 300 new cases.
As of Sunday, South Sudan registered 4,609 positive COVID-19 cases, 861 active cases, 66 deaths and 3,692 recoveries. - David Mono Danga, Voice of America