Africans cheer rollout of COVAX vaccinations

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ABUJA/NAIROBI (Reuters) – Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda started inoculating frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable citizens against COVID-19 on Friday as Africa, the world’s poorest continent and home to 1.3 billion people, stepped up its vaccination campaigns.

While some wealthy Western nations have already inoculated millions of people, many African states have struggled to secure doses and have yet to administer a single shot.

But the global vaccine-sharing COVAX facility, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the GAVI vaccine alliance and others, has begun to bear fruit in nations from Ghana to Rwanda.

Kenyan healthcare workers look on from the windows as they wait to be vaccinated during the official launch of vaccinating health workers at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), in Nairobi, Kenya, 05 March 2021. Kenya on 03 March received its first batch of 1.02 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through global COVAX scheme prioritizing to vaccinate healthcare workers, teachers and people with compromised immunity. Kenya is expected to import 24 million doses in a couple of months. EPA-EFE/DANIEL IRUNGU

“This means that I will die when God wants because the coronavirus cannot kill me now,” 90-year-old Stephanie Nyirankuriza said, leaning on a walking stick after her shot at a health centre just east of the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Rwanda is the first nation in Africa to use pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s doses that require ultra-cold storage.

President Paul Kagame’s government, which prides itself on technological prowess but is often criticised as authoritarian, has installed special infrastructure to keep the Pfizer vaccine at the required -70C.

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