South Sudan holds back some AstraZeneca doses due to low uptake over expiration fears

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South Sudan

A South Sudan official said on Sunday that the country is withholding 72,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines acquired through the COVAX facility due to low uptake over expiration fears.

Mayen Machut Achiek, undersecretary at the Ministry of Health, said Juba had reached an agreement with COVAX facility to send back vaccines before they expire on July 18th.

“In our discussion yesterday with World Health Organization (WHO) we agreed to commit back an amount of 72,000 doses so that they are kept safely for us, we do not want to run the risk of them expiring in our hands,” Achiek told journalists in Juba on Sunday during the weekly COVID-19 briefing.

He disclosed that the vaccines will be re-sent to the country when the available 60,000 AstraZeneca doses are exhausted.”COVAX facility is very happy with that arrangement, we are tightening our belts hopefully in the next two weeks the 60,000 doses will be dispersed all over the country,” said Achiek.

According to South Sudan’s health ministry, the country aims to vaccinate 2.4 million people out of an estimated population of 12 million.

On March 25, Juba received 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility. The country was expected to receive a total of 732,000 doses of vaccines within the first six months of 2021.

John Rumunu, director general for preventive health services at the Ministry of Health, said that South Sudan will be able to utilize the 60,000 doses before they expiry in July.He disclosed that so far 7,996 people have received their first COVID jabs including 1,431 health workers out of the targeted 4,020.

South Sudan as of Sunday registered five new cases of COVID-19 infection, bringing the cumulative number of the confirmed cases to 10,675, with 10,514 recoveries and 115 deaths since April 6, 2020 when the first case was registered.

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