The vaccines were shipped into the Gambia by UNICEF (through COVAX), from the Serum Institute of India after the Ministry of Health submitted all the required documents for delivery.
The Gambia is among few countries in Africa that met all the requirements for the supply process led by UNICEF with the help of other relevant UN organizations, WHO included.
COVAX a vaccine pillar Access to Covid-19 tools a global collaboration led by Gavi, Epidemic Preparedness Innovations CEPI, and WHO that ensures equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatment, and vaccines to around the world especially low income countries like The Gambia.
The Gambia is expected to receive about 185,000 dozes of the AstraZenecca vaccines according to officials.
Meanwhile, The Gambia has not paid a single butut to access this amount as it is given free of charge, but the country subsequently may buy more vaccines if it chooses to.
Addressing the press at the tarmac of the Banjul International Airport after the arrival of the vaccines, the Minister for Health, Amadou Lamin Samateh expressed his delight over what he described as historic.
“We are gathered here to receive the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine to mark what will be the end for the pandemic throughout the globe, the minister said.”
“It is therefore significant that all Gambians are classified as high risk groups (health care workers of all categories in public and private, and pharmacies, people living with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancer among others.
Elderly men and women of 65 years and above, teachers, immigration and security apparatus (of all categories) will be especially vaccinated first in the next coming weeks.
The AstraZenneca vaccine against Covd-19 is said to have an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“Today we have made history, reaffirmed our commitment to vaccine equity, and delivered on our promise to leave no one behind, '' UNICEF Gambia Representative Gordon Jonathan Lewis said. “By delivering these vaccines, we have taken a giant leap towards the recovery of the hundreds of thousands of children and their families affected by the pandemic in this country.”
The WHO Representative to the Gambia Dr. Desta Alamerew Tiruneh said, “the most important aim at the end of all this is to end the acute phase of the pandemic, meaning the burden on the health services, the burden on the whole system will be relieved.”
He said the vaccine also went through the relevant institutions of the health ministry and has been approved for usage.
“Now that the vaccine is here with us, we are actually urging people who are eligible for this vaccination to take this vaccine; this vaccine is effective and safe. It has gone through very rigorous processes of review and validation and verification to make it available here.”
Officials say the vaccine has a greater efficacy after twice the longer interval of 8-12 weeks range.