By Foday Moriba Conteh
As part of their support in combating the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) in partnership with the African Union, CDC, United Nations and Afreximbank has on Wednesday 1st September, 2021 donated 52, 800 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine during an auspicious ceremony held at the Freetown International Airport which was followed by the official handing over ceremony of the vaccines to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on Thursday 2nd September, 2021 at Youyi Building in Freetown.
Handing over the items, the Epidemiologist and Focal Person for Africa CDC, Sotonye Dokabo, said that the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust is very pleased to deliver 52,800 doses of Johnson & Johnson of COVID-19 vaccine to the Republic of Sierra Leone as part of the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, adding that this is part of a total of 6.4m vaccine doses for African Union Member States.
He stated that the Member States who have ordered vaccines through AVAT will continue to receive shipments for the next following months saying it is in collaboration with the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), UNICEF who are providing logistical and delivery services to the Member States.
Sotonye Dokabo said the deliveries are part of the historic COVID-19 vaccine advance procurement agreement signed on the 28th March 2021 by AVAT for the purchase of 220 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, with the potential to order an additional 180 million doses.
He pointed out that the agreement with Johnson & Johnson was made possible through a USD 2 billion facility provided by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), who are also the Financial and
Transaction Advisers, Guarantors, Instalment Payment Advisers and Payment Agents and that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) provides the technical support on the financing arrangements and on the alignment of the AU Ministers of Finance.
The Minister for Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone, Dr. Austin Demby, welcomed the arrival of the vaccines stating that the Government of Sierra Leone is extremely delighted by the news of the arrival of the vaccines maintaining how it will contribute in boosting their determination to save lives and protect the livelihoods of the people of Sierra Leone. He expressed gratitude to AVAT and their strategic partners for the laudable gesture which, he said, is very important towards the fight against COVID-19 in the country.
Delivering her statement, the UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, informed the gathering that globally and in Sierra Leone, COVID-19 has disrupted delivery of essential services and continues to claim lives and dislocate livelihoods, adding that as of 31ST August 2021, Sierra Leone had over 6,367 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 121 associated deaths, since the first COVID-19 positive case was announced on March 31, 2020.
He maintained that the recent experience with the third wave reminded all of the need to continue, sustain, and expand the COVID-19 response. It also reminds of the importance of accelerating vaccination efforts to prevent the any possible future wave.
He highlighted that the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis can only be tackled when the world act together as one.
Dr. Suleiman Braimoh appreciated the African Union and CDC Africa, through for their contribution of 52,800 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccination a, which is being delivered through the AU/AVAT facility furthering that the consignment is part of additional vaccines procured through AVAT/AU facility with World Bank funding. The World Bank allocated $4million USD to help Sierra Leone acquire the additional vaccines.
He reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to support the Government of Sierra Leone with vaccine deployment, ensuring that the populations are well informed of the vaccination, strengthening the cold chain system, and protecting the safety and potency of the vaccines. He further re-affirmed UNICEF’s commitment to working with the Government of Sierra Leone/MoHS in improving quality access to health services, including routine immunization to the people of Sierra Leone.
On his part, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, who also doubles as the spokesman for NaCOVERC, Solomon Jamiru, on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone expressed appreciation to Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and their partners for the tremendous efforts they have been making towards the fight against the pandemic in the country.
He maintained that Sierra Leone is very proud to receive the 52, 800 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine in order to support the country’s vaccination drive in the country, adding that in order to combat the pandemic in the country citizens need to take the vaccine which he said is safe and has been approved by WHO.
Climaxing the event was the official handing over of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the Government of Sierra Leone.