COVID-19

How to distribute Covid vaccines in a country where roads are few? – BBC News Africa

  • By Anne Soy
  • BBC News, Juba

42 minutes ago

Author of the photo, fake images

Screenshot,

A hospital staff member receives a Covid-19 vaccine at Juba Teaching Hospital on April 7, 2021 in Juba, South Sudan.

South Sudan is one of the countries with the lowest vaccination rate against Covid-19 in the world, only 0.8% of the population received one dose and 0.3% both injections.

This shows the glaring inequality in vaccine distribution, as some developed countries now administer a third booster injection and also vaccinate children.

“Although we can get the vaccine, it is ten times more expensive in South Sudan than in neighboring countries, which have a very reliable road network,” said Nay Myo Thu, a vaccination specialist at UNICEF, the United Nations agency for the childhood. in the country.

South Sudan is a large country, the size of France. But only a few roads are paved. Most of the country remains largely inaccessible by road.

Decades of war that led to a split with Sudan in 2011 and the abandonment of its former rulers in the north have left the infrastructure poorly developed.

But even after gaining independence, the country was beset by governance problems and insecurity caused by political and ethnic violence. Therefore, it is more difficult to carry out a vaccination program.

Thus, during the rainy season, floods isolate certain areas and render runways unusable.

Author of the photo, fake images

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Parts of southern Sudan were affected by the September floods.

Dr. John Rumunu, chief of the government’s preventive health services, said that some AstraZeneca vaccines have been shipped to all 10 states across the country, but less than 50% of counties have been affected. Some counties have not received any vaccinations. “

UNICEF is responsible for distributing vaccines obtained through the United Nations-backed Covax program, which was created to make vaccines more accessible to developing countries.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the agency handled the logistics of childhood immunization programs, making this the largest expansion of its operations to date.

In South Sudan, it mainly transports vaccines by air.

“In about 50 places, we have to fly the vaccines if we want to distribute them fairly,” says Dr. Nay.

This requires a large investment, which means that distributing vaccines in South Sudan is much more expensive than buying them.

But skydiving is nothing new in South Sudan. The World Food Program often uses it to bring food aid to remote places where planes cannot land.

Planes deployed from the capital, Juba, or neighboring states like Kenya and Uganda, drop sacks of food into empty fields.

Sometimes packages attached to parachutes fall from the sky.

The teams in the field collect them and distribute them to the inhabitants, who gather to wait for the delivery.

Author of the photo, AFP

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Food aid (above) is often dropped from airplanes on people in isolated villages. This is also how some vaccines are given.

Vaccines are given in the same way.

“You have to reach people and make sure they arrive on time. Depending on their availability, you have to wait,” adds Dr. Nay.

Coordinating the entire operation, choosing the right moment and waiting for a favorable climate are the keys to success, even if things don’t always go perfectly.

“It is not an easy thing given that our health system is not strong. Most health workers are not well paid,” said Dr. Victoria Majur, a senior official in the Ministry of Health.

He added that they had to be given “incentives” to vaccinate people.

Vaccines “fell in Africa”

While logistics is a problem, there is also a shortage of supplies for the 11 million people of South Sudan.

So far, the country has received two shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The first came on March 25. It contained 132,000 doses.

“The deployment was decided based on the ease of reaching the counties. There were logistical challenges and motivation of healthcare workers, as well as insecurity and weather conditions,” adds Dr. Rumunu.

But only 60,000 doses have been used.

It was decided to send the remaining 72,000 doses to neighboring countries in July.

“We thought that instead of letting them expire here, we should distribute them to other countries, let them use them and hope that when we are ready, we will receive an equivalent amount of vaccines to protect our population,” he said. Dr. Nay.

A second shipment of 60,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, donated by France through Covax, arrived on August 31.

It had a much shorter lifespan of just four weeks, but all the vaccines were sold out within that time.

Dr. Richard Mihigo of the World Health Organization said the short expiration date reduces people’s confidence in vaccines.

“It’s like throwing away products in Africa when other people have used most of it,” he told the BBC.

Author of the photo, AFP

Screenshot,

A photo taken on July 3, 2018 shows a large white cross indicating the point where a World Food Program (WFP) plane drops bags of corn and sorghum in the village of Jeich, in northern Ayod County in South Sudan.

The Covax facility was meant to ensure that countries like South Sudan had a good chance of receiving vaccines.

But so far, of the 470 million doses promised to African countries by the end of 2021, only about 89 million doses have been delivered, according to Dr. Mihigo.

India’s decision to cut supply due to a strong Covid 19 wave earlier this year has affected supply.

On top of that, “most of the rich countries grabbed most of the supply in the market, leaving the Covax facility facing shortages of vaccines that had been promised by manufacturers,” said Dr. Mihigo.

On October 8, South Sudan launched a new vaccination campaign following the arrival of approximately 60,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines donated by the United States government.

Performers dressed in brightly colored costumes, feather headdresses and dried gourds cut in half led the crowd to the outskirts of Juba to celebrate their arrival.

As it is a single-dose vaccine, it will alleviate the enormous logistical difficulties associated with the distribution of vaccines in the arms.

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